Church's organization was 'a spiritual feast'

In accordance with revelation (D&C 20), the Church was organized April 6, 1830, at a meeting in Peter Whitmer Sr.'s log farmhouse.

"The organizational meeting commenced with prayer," wrote Elder John K. Carmack in Encyclopedia of Mormonism (Vol. 3:1049-1050). "The small congregation, made up of about 50 men and women, unanimously voted approval to organize a new church and elected Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, Hyrum Smith, Peter Whitmer Jr., Samuel H. Smith, and David Whitmer as trustees."They also unanimously elected Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery as teachers and first and second elders of the newly organized Church of Christ. Smith ordained Cowdery as an elder of the Church, and in turn Cowdery ordained Smith, even though they had previously ordained each other to the priesthood office of elder. . . . The second ordination signified that the two elders were empowered to act in the new Church. They blessed and shared the bread and wine of the Lord's Supper with those present in honor of the special occasion, bestowed the gift of the Holy Ghost on each individual member present by the laying on of hands, and confirmed each of those previously baptized as members. Smith and Cowdery called and ordained men to different offices of the priesthood.

"Those present at the meeting enjoyed an unusual outpouring of the Spirit of the Lord. After the spiritual feast, they dismissed the formal meeting. Having authority bestowed upon them, the newly appointed Church officers baptized several persons, including Joseph Smith Sr., Martin Harris and Orrin Porter Rockwell. On this day the Prophet Joseph Smith also received revelations to guide the Church. (cf. D&C 21.)

"Important events such as the restoration of priesthood authority and the translation and publishing of the Book of Mormon preceded this date, and subsequent revelations and administrative changes defined and expanded Church organization, but Latter-day Saints consider April 6, 1830, as the birthday of the Church."

B. H. Roberts in A Comprehensive History of the Church (Vol. 1:197) noted that two great principles were in operation at the organization of the Church: the expressed mind and will of God and the consent of the people. The Lord had commanded His servants to organize the Church, but those available as members had to consent to the organization. Also, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery had been ordained by Peter, James and John to be apostles, but could only be presiding elders of the Church by consent of the members.

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Book of Mormon witnesses never recanted words

D&C 17 contains the Lord's injunction to the Three Witnesses, prior to their being shown by an angel the engraved plates that contained the Book of Mormon record. Several days later, eight other men were given the privilege of seeing and handling the plates. The statements from both sets of witnesses are published with the Book of Mormon.

None of the witnesses ever denied his testimony, although some left the Church.

Milton V. Backman Jr., in Eyewitness Accounts of the Restoration, offers this profile of these 11 special witnesses:

"At the time of the viewing of the Book of Mormon plates, all 11 witnesses were men of maturity, competent observers, and trustworthy individuals who believed in living a life which harmonized with the teachings of Christ. The average age of these witnesses in 1829 was 30, the youngest, Peter Whitmer Jr., being 19, and the oldest, Joseph Smith Sr., being 59.

" . . . All of the Three Witnesses and three of the Eight Witnesses (John and Jacob Whitmer and Hiram Page) eventually rejected the leadership of Joseph Smith. A number of forces combined to create an internal crisis within the restored Church in 1837 and 1838 that led to apostasy of many leaders. Economic failures, a visible pride and selfishness of some members, the unfolding of new doctrines by the Prophet, and the failure of some members to pattern their life after the revelatory writings of Joseph Smith (such as complying with provisions of the health code known as the Word of Wisdom) were included among these debilitating influences.

"Between the fall of 1837 and the summer of 1838, four of the witnesses were excommunicated (Martin Harris, David Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery and John Whitmer) and two others (Jacob Whitmer and Hiram Page) became alienated and never returned to active participation. Two of the six men (Oliver Cowdery and Martin Harris) admitted that they had transgressed, repented of their mistakes, and were rebaptized into [the ChurchT during the administration of President Brigham Young.

"Although these six witnesses criticized the Prophet in 1837 and 1838 for some of his actions not one of the six denied viewing the plates nor rejected the authenticity of the Book of Mormon. . . . Moreover, all of the Three Witnesses and some of the eight made it a point to reaffirm their testimonies regarding the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon on their death beds."

Articles on this page may be used in conjunction with the Gospel Doctrine course of study.

Information compiled by R. Scott Lloyd

Sources: Milton V. Backman Jr., Eyewitness Accounts of the Restoration; John K. Carmack, "Organization of the Church," Encyclopedia of Mormonism, vol. 3; B. H. Roberts, History of the Church, vol. 1; October 1989 conference report.

Church president is revelator for all

At the organization of the Church, the Lord admonished members to receive the words of Joseph Smith "in all patience and faith" and thereby the gates of hell would not prevail against them. (See D&C 21:1, 5.)

That admonition has been appropriate regarding each of Joseph Smith's successors in the presidency of the Church.

"We have been promised that the President of the Church will receive guidance for all of us as the revelator for the Church. Our safety lies in paying heed to that which he says and following his counsel," said Elder James E. Faust of the Twelve at October 1989 general conference.

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