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In April of 1829 a man who would become very valuable to Joseph and become an important man in the church came to Joseph's house. His name was Oliver Cowdery. Sometimes we meet people who we like right away and we feel as if we already know them. That is how it was with Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. They trusted each other at once and both felt that God had led Oliver to Joseph to help him.
Oliver Cowdery was an educated man and was a schoolteacher. He had stayed at the house of Joseph's parents and there he had heard all about Joseph and about the golden plates. He prayed to God and felt that God wanted him to go to Joseph and write for him.
It was good that Oliver could go, Joseph was not getting on very fast with the translating. He had to work hard to provide for his family and Emma could not help him very much because she had so many things to do to take care of the house. Women did not have appliances in those days to help with the housework, so Emma had to work hard. Joseph prayed for someone to come and be his scribe, or person to write for him. God promised that he would send someone. So when Oliver showed up Joseph was not surprised.
Now Joseph and Oliver could really get to work. Joseph translated and Oliver wrote, and they began to get a lot done. They were also learning things about the scriptures that they never knew before.
They kept working hard. On May 15, 1829, something very important happened. Joseph and Oliver went to the woods to pray. They wanted to know about baptism. God sent another angel to them. The angel was John the Baptist. What do you remember about John the Baptist? His job on earth was to tell the people to repent, and to baptize them, and to get them ready for Jesus to come.
John the Baptist laid his hands on Joseph and Oliver and said, "Upon you, my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah, I confer the priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion, for the remission of sins; and this shall never be taken again from the earth, until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness."
In those words John said many important things. What are they? l. John was a servant of Jesus Christ and so were Joseph and Oliver. 2. Joseph and Oliver were to be in the Aaronic priesthood. 3. The job of the Aaronic priesthood (which includes Deacons, Teachers, and Priests) is to have help from angels, to preach that people must be sorry for their sins and change for the better (repentance), should baptize people by putting them all the way under the water, this is to show that their sins are washed away. 4.There will be Aaronic priesthood on the earth until Jesus comes again. Some people have been very busy trying to get rid of the priesthood. They know that priesthood is necessary to God's plan. But people cannot mess up God's plans, they can only mess up themselves and other people who are not careful to follow God.
John then told Joseph to baptize Oliver and then Oliver was to baptize Joseph. So they were both baptized. They could not confirm each other because the Aaronic priesthood does not confirm for the Holy Spirit. John was acting under the direction of Peter, James and John, three of Jesus' disciples. Peter, James and John hold the keys, or are in charge of, the Melchisedec priesthood. Joseph and Oliver would be part of the Melchisedec priesthood soon, but until then they could not confirm each other. But they were able to ordain each other to the Aaronic priesthood. Joseph ordained Oliver and then Oliver ordained Joseph.
Joseph and Oliver were the first to be baptized in Christ's church in several hundred years. After Jesus died, came back to life, and went back to heaven, his disciples did the work of Christ's church and many people joined the church. But after many years the people of the church did not do as God had told them and the church of Christ disappeared from the earth. This is called Apostacy. So when Joseph and Oliver were baptized there was no living priesthood member to baptize them. And there was no living elder to confirm them. And they ordained each other to the Aaronic priesthood before they were confirmed.
This is the proper order of doing this for everyone else: be baptized by a Priest or Elder, be confirmed to receive the Holy Spirit by having an Elder lay his hands on your head and pray. Only a man who is baptized this way can become a priesthood member. He must be ordained by another priesthood member, usually an elder. A priest can ordain another priest, teacher or deacon.
Joseph and Oliver had to keep it a secret that they were now baptized and were priests. The people who lived around there hated Joseph and were threatening to mob him. A mob is a very dangerous thing, a mob is a large crowd of people, who when they get worked up to hate someone or something act together and drop all the rules of civilized behavior. They will do anything and think it is all right. Only after they have separated from each other do they think that what they have done was terribly wrong.
The only thing that protected Joseph and Oliver was Emma's family. They liked Joseph and did not like mobs. They protected Joseph and the work he was doing as best as they could.
Joseph and Oliver began to teach some of the things which they were learning to their friends and family. Soon Joseph's brother, Samuel, was baptized.
Even though many people hated Joseph there were some who became friendly and interested in his work. They helped by bringing food and things they needed. Joseph became acquainted with a family from Fayette, Seneca County, New York. They were the Whitmer family. The Whitmer's moved Joseph and Emma and Oliver to their house and let them stay there and took care of them until Joseph was done translating the plates and had a copyright for them. A copyright is a very important thing you must get from the government. It makes a book that is written the legal property of the person who wrote it or translated it. If anyone got a copy of the Book of Mormon and changed any of it without the permission Joseph it would be against the law. This is to protect the book from being changed.
Many of the Whitmer family were baptized and many of their friends in Seneca County were baptized also.
The plates were now translated and some people were beginning to believe that God was the one directing Joseph.
Very soon, God would let someone other than Joseph see the golden plates. Joseph would no longer have to carry this knowledge all by himself.
Adapted by Lois Anderson
from The History of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Volume 1 pp.27-45
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Copyright 2001 Lois M. Anderson: All Rights Reserved
Last revised: August 7, 2001