Firesides/28 November 2010 - Sweden/11

Table of Contents

Response to questions about angelic visitations

1: BoM translation2: Polygamy and Polyandry3: Polygamy forced?4: Book of Abraham5: "Lying for Lord"6: Mark Hofmann7: Blood atonement8: First Vision9: Sanitized history10: "Not all truth is useful"11: Angelic affidavits12: Blacks and priesthood13: Temple concerns14: Evidence of Vikings15: Adam-God16: Kinderhook

The attendees of The "Swedish Rescue" fireside ask the following question:

One thing that really bothers me is the lack of contemporary sources for the angelic visitations.
  • There are sources from 1820-1830— affidavits, letters, minutes— but none of them ever mentions any angelic visitations or a priesthood
  • Why are there not any contemporary testimonies? Or are there?

  • Question: Why is there a lack of contemporary sources for angelic visitations?
    Answer: There actually are such references.
  • Lack of contemporary sources...for angelic visitations. There’s two things I want to say about this.

    Number one, the church in its earliest days was essentially a church of oral tradition. OK? People did not write things. It’s probably like you and your childhood. Maybe not. Maybe you wrote through your childhood because you were educated well. But for people who grew up in a society where they didn’t get a lot of education they generally didn’t write. Joseph Smith really starts writing around...our first revelation for which we have documentary evidence is in the late 1820s. So the first thing he starts writing is scripture.

    And then, early revelations do have references to angelic visitations. Section 20 of the Doctrine and Covenants, articles and covenants of the church, is an example of that. D&C section 20 has references to angelic visitations. And there are other...the 1832 history has references to it as well.

    —Brother Turley's answer to this question at the Sweden fireside.
    • Question: Do contemporary accounts mention angelic visitors?
      Answer: Yes.

      Some of the earliest documents explicitly discuss angelic visitors to Joseph Smith:
    • 1829:The Three Witnesses testified to an angelic vision of the Book of Mormon plates and other artifacts.
    • 17 June 1829: A disbelieving member of Joseph Smith, Sr.'s family writes of Joseph:
    He writes that the Angel of the Lord has revealed to him the hidden treasures of wisdom & knowledge, even divine revelation, which has lain in the bowels of the earth for thousands of years [and] is at last made known to him, he says he has eyes to see things that are not and then has the audacity to say they are; and the Angel of the Lord (Devil it should be) has put me in possession of great wealth, gold and silver and precious stones so that I shall have the dominion in all the land of Palmyra. [Jesse Smith, Stockholm, New York, to Hyrum Smith, Palmyra, New York, 17 June 1829; transcribed in Joseph Smith Letterbook, 1837-43, Joseph Smith Papers, Church Archives, 59.]
    • 5 September 1829: Skeptical newspaper reports that Martin Harris was told by Joseph that he was "visited by the spirit of the Almighty in a dream, and informed that in a certain hill . . . was deposited a Golden Bible" ["Golden Bible," Rochester (NY) Gem, 5 September 1829, 70].
    • 29 November 1829: Oliver Cowdery writes to a skeptical newspaper man for himself and Martin Harris, who were asked if "juggling" (i.e., trickery on the part of Joseph) might not explain their vision of the plates. The letter declared:
    It was a clear, open beautiful day, far from any inhabitants, in a remote field, at the time we saw the record, of which it has been spoken, brought and laid before us, by an angel, arrayed in glorious light, [who]...[descended...] out of the midst of heaven....Now if this is human juggling—judge ye.
    —Oliver Cowdery and Martin Harris, in letter dated 29 November 1829, quoted in Corenlius C. Blatchly, "THE NEW BIBLE, written on plates of Gold or Brass," Gospel Luminary 2/49 (10 Dec. 1829): 194.
    • 9 June 1830: "God visited him [Joseph Smith] by an holy angel, whose countenance was as lightning, and whose garments were pure and white above all whiteness, and gave unto him commandments which inspired him from on high." [Published "The Mormon Creed," Painesville Telegraph, 19 April 1831, 4.]
    • Question: Is priesthood ordination by angels mentioned prior to 1831? Is Melchizedek priesthood ordination mentioned prior to 1831?
      Answer: Yes, to both, though obliquely.

    • Hostile sources report Cowdery's claims to have seen angels (plural) and to possess authority which no one else did, including the right to baptize and confer the Gift of the Holy Ghost. The latter requires the Melchizedek priesthood in LDS doctrine.
      • 16 November 1830: Cowdery "pretends to have seen Angels....holds forth that the ordinances of the gospel, have not been regularly administered since the days of the Apostles, till the said Smith and himself commenced the work....[he] pretends to have a divine mission, and to have seen and conversed with Angels..." ["The Golden Bible," Painesville (Ohio) Telegraph, 16 November 1830, 3.]
      • 7 December 1830: "Oliver Cowdry [sic] has his commission directly from the God of Heaven...Cowdry claims that he and his associates are the only persons on earth who are qualified to administer in his name. By this authority, they proclaim to the world, that all do who do not believe their testimony, and be baptized by them for the remission of sins, and come under the imposition of their hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost...must be forever miserable" [Painesville Telegraph, 7 December 1830, italics in original.]
    • Question: Is Melchizedek priesthood ordination by angels mentioned soon after 1830?
      Answer: Yes.

    • 1831: [LDS missionaries] then proclaimed that there had been no religion in the world for 1500 years,--that no one had been authorized to preach &c. for that period--that Jo Smith had now received a commission from God for that purpose....Smith (they affirmed) had seen God frequently and personally--Cowdery and his friends had frequent interviews with angels [Reflector (Palmyra, NY), 14 February 1831, 102].
    • 1832: Joseph Smith's history: "he [Joseph] receiving...thirdly the reception of the holy Priesthood by the ministering of Aangels [sic] to administer the letter of the Gospel—the Law and commandments as they were given unto him—and the ordinences, forthly 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 of the Kees of the Kingdom of God confered upon him...."
    • October 1832: A Protestant minister wrote that "[Mormons] profess to hold frequent converse with angels; some go, if we may believe what they say, as far as the third heaven, and converse with the Lord Jesus face to face.[Rev. B. Pixley, Christian Watchman, Independence Mo., October 12, 1832; in Among the Mormons. Historic Accounts by Contemporary Observers, Edited by William Mulder and A. Russell Mortensen (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1958): 74.]
    • March 1833 The Reverend Richmond Taggart wrote a letter to a ministerial friend, regarding the activities of Joseph Smith himself in Ohio: "The following Curious occurrance occurred last week in Newburg [Ohio] about 6 miles from this Place [Cleveland]. Joe Smith the great Mormonosity was there and held forth, and among other things he told them he had seen Jesus Christ and the Apostles and conversed with them, and that he could perform Miracles." [Richmond Taggart to the Reverend Jonathan Goings, 2 March 1833, 2, Jonathon Goings Papers, American Baptist Historical Society, Rochester, New York, emphasis added.]
    Joseph’s ‘conversations’ with the Apostles could be a reference to having seen, spoken to, and been ordained to the Priesthood by the early Apostles Peter, James, and John. Having received that Priesthood Joseph Smith was now qualified to perform healings, and other ‘miracles’.
    • July 1833 A Missouri newspaper contains an article on a mass meeting of Latter-day Saints, and refers to the Saints’ “pretended revelations from heaven… their personal intercourse with God and his angels… converse with God and his angels…” [Missouri Intelligencer (August 10, 1833)].
    • Question: Why are there not any contemporary testimonies? Or are there?
      Answer: Yes, there are.
    See above. The record is not richer partly because of difficulties the infant Church had in recording and preserving its history. Joseph Smith also said that they did not speak publicly about such matters "owing to a spirit of persecution."