We’re asking why an un-baptized Joseph Smith baptized Oliver Cowdery, when neither of these two men held the Aaronic Priesthood. About a year ago we talked about an article in the LDS ‘Friend’ Magazine when a young person had written in asking what it meant to hold the priesthood.
This time around we’re looking at the mechanics of what took place the day Smith and Cowdery claims that John the Baptist as well as the apostles Peter, James, and John appeared to reactivate God’s priesthood!
Joseph Smith History 1:69-71; “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. 70 He said this Aaronic Priesthood had not the power of laying on hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, but that this should be conferred on us hereafter; and he commanded us to go and be baptized, and gave us directions that I should baptize Oliver Cowdery, and that afterwards he should baptize me. 71 Accordingly we went and were baptized. I baptized him first, and afterwards he baptized me—after which I laid my hands upon his head and ordained him to the Aaronic Priesthood, and afterwards he laid his hands on me and ordained me to the same Priesthood—for so we were commanded.”
There are BIG problems with this scenario!
1.John the Baptist was unqualified to hold the priesthood so he couldn’t give away what he didn’t have.
2.Joe Smith’s own scripture prohibits him from performing a baptism ceremony, or conferring any priesthood on others… See Doctrines of Salvation –
Doctrines of Salvation 3:80-81; “Man cannot act legally in the name of the Lord unless he is vested with the priesthood, which is divine authority. No man has the power or the right to take this honor to himself. Unless he is called of God, as was Aaron, he has no authority to officiate in any of the ordinances of the gospel; should he do so his act is not valid or recognized in the heavens. …
…LEGAL ADMINISTRATORS ESSENTIAL TO SALVATION. The question of priesthood or divine authority is vital, since it concerns the salvation of each of us. It is impossible for a man to enter the kingdom of God without complying with the laws of that kingdom. Only authorized officers may properly officiate in rites and ceremonies of the kingdom. No man has the right to assume the authority and officiate without being ordained to the ministry. To do so is an illegal act.” – Joseph Fielding Smith
3.Joseph and Oliver Cowdery were later visited by Peter, James, and John, who gave them the Melchizedek Priesthood. However, these three men didn’t hold any priesthood authority, and once again, couldn’t give away what they didn’t have.
4.The Apostles didn’t have the Melchizedek Priesthood. Hebrews 7 declares the Aaronic, or Levitical Priesthood, was abolished. The Bible also states there was no Melchizedek Priesthood except for the one that was held by Jesus Christ.
For a great article Ed Decker wrote about this, check out our Mentoring Handbook! Ed gives exact reasons why the transferring of priesthood authority was impossible, not to mention unbiblical!
…Joseph’s claim that John the Baptist descended and restored the Levitical priesthood of Aaron can only lead one to believe that he had little or no knowledge of the Bible or Jewish tradition at the time.
John the Baptist never held the Levitical priesthood, and could not restore something he never had, even in Mormon theology. John wore the skins of an animal and ate food that was considered unclean to the Levitical priesthood. He functioned in the streets and by-ways, proclaiming Jesus Christ, calling people to repent and be baptized. The priesthood functioned within the temple at the altar. It doesn’t match up.
If he were a member of the priesthood of his day, its leaders knew nothing of it. When challenged by Christ regarding this very subject, they were ignorant of John’s authority
23 Now when He came into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people confronted Him as He was teaching, and said, “By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority? 24 But Jesus answered and said to them, “I also will ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things: 25 The baptism of John — where was it from? From heaven or from men?” And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘From men,’ we fear the multitude, for all count John as a prophet.” 27 So they answered Jesus and said, “We do not know.” And He said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things. Matt 21:23-27 NKJV
Further, the Mormon priesthood that Joseph Smith claimed was a restoration does not deal with the key functions of the early Aaronic priesthood, the offering of gifts according to the law.
3 For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices. Therefore it is necessary that this One also have something to offer. 4 For if He were on earth, He would not be a priest, since there are priests who offer the gifts according to the law; 5 who serve the copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was divinely instructed when he was about to make the tabernacle. For He said, “See that you make all things according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.” 6 But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises. Heb 8:3-6 NKJ
Jesus has given us a better Covenant, established upon better promises and has made the old to vanish away. Why would Jesus want to restore what He had come to put an end to?
Joseph Smith claimed that Peter, James and John came and restored the Melchizedek priesthood. This declaration, like each before it, cannot meet the test of Scripture, or logic.
In Mormonism, no man can hold the Melchizedek priesthood without first holding the Aaronic priesthood. Those great Apostles of the Lord most obviously were not operating as Levitical priests. Everything they did within the record of the Word of God places them totally outside that dead priesthood.
The true Melchizedek priesthood was always a priesthood of only one!
It existed before the law was given (Genesis 14:18) and after the law was ended (Hebrews 7:11-17). It sprang forth with the first offering of bread and wine. (Genesis 14:18) It reappeared only when the final offering of the broken body of Christ and His shed blood ended the penalty of the law as He became our sin offering by the sacrifice of Himself (Hebrews 9:12-14).