When priesthood authority was brought again to the earth in this dispensation, the events surrounding its restoration were very memorable for Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery.
The two had been deeply involved in translating the Book of Mormon and had come to an understanding of the need for priesthood authority and the ordinance of baptism, something they knew did not exist with them.After fervent prayers for guidance they received their answer on May 15, 1829, on the banks of the Susquehanna River in eastern Pennsylvania. A description of the occasion, written by Oliver Cowdery, is found in The Pearl of Great Price, pages 58-59.
"On a sudden," he wrote, "as from the midst of eternity, the voice of the Redeemer spake peace to us, while the veil was parted and the angel of God came down clothed with glory, and delivered the anxiously looked for message, and the keys of the Gospel of repentance. What joy! What wonder! What amazement!"
The resurrected angelic John the Baptist appeared before them in a brilliance of light described by Oliver as more than the " `blaze of day'; yes, more - above the glitter of the May sunbeam which then shed its brilliancy over the face of nature!"
His voice, which Oliver described as mild, pierced them to the center, dispelled every fear, and filled them with pure love. Consider this emotional portion of Oliver's account: "I shall not attempt to paint to you the feelings of this heart, nor the majestic beauty and glory which surrounded us on this occasion; but you will believe me when I say, that earth, nor men, with the eloquence of time, cannot begin to clothe language in as interesting and sublime a manner as this holy personage. No; nor has this earth power to give the joy, to bestow the peace, or comprehend the wisdom which was contained in each sentence as they were delivered by the power of the Holy Spirit."
Then came the long-awaited bestowal of authority and power. Said Oliver: ". . . further think for a moment, what joy filled our hearts, and with what surprise we must have bowed (for who would not have bowed the knees for such a blessing?) when we received under his hand the Holy Priesthood as he said `Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah, I confer this priesthood and this authority. . . .' "
As we ponder that memorable occasion we should resolve that each time the priesthood is conferred and ordinations are made they should be just as significant to us.
To make our own experiences memorable, consider the pattern that Oliver set forth in his writings: they were translating the scriptures and from sacred writ obtained an understanding that authority was needed; they prayed in a fervant manner; God heard their prayers and sent His servant to represent Him; authority was conferred and in the language of the Spirit blessings were given through ordination.
It is incumbent on God's servants, who have authority to confer and ordain, to make each such experience as memorable as possible.
Those preparing to receive the priesthood should be encouraged in advance to read the scriptures, especially those that pertain to priesthood authority, which validates the right of this Church to function.
Through prayer, the person to be ordained should seek a personal witness that God lives, that it is His power being bestowed, and that through priesthood power the true Church of Jesus Christ is administered on the earth today.
A duly authorized priesthood holder is then able through the worthiness of the individual to represent Heavenly Father in bestowing the office and calling to be given. Such an ordination follows the divinely appointed pattern of the laying on of hands by those authorized to do so.
The language used in the blessing should be the language of the Spirit. The person officiating should be prepared to listen to the promptings of the Holy Ghost and speak words that can be as sublime and powerful as those described by Oliver Cowdery, for they come from the same spiritual source.
Oliver wrote that he and Joseph looked upon the experiences of May 15, 1829, ". . . with wonder and thanksgiving. . . ."
So should we consider our ordinations today. Each person ordained in this dispensation who is able to trace his priesthood line of authority back to the Savior should do so, keeping it as part of his personal records.
Then, the grand and glorious power of the priesthood should be magnified through service to others, never kept selfishly, but used to bless and build up the lives of God's children. With careful planning we can make each ordination done in the Church today as memorable as were those of Joseph and Oliver 167 years ago this month.