The Return of the Prodigal Son

I’ve been thinking lately about the prodigal son and about a few other things that I am going to randomly mention.

There is an interesting article written about the here, about the return of Oliver Cowdery to the Church after his excommunication.

I spent the day in the Church Historical Library yesterday re-reading the discourses of Brigham Young for a project I am working on.

There is a six volume publication documenting every known discourse that Brigham Young ever gave located there. Every discourse contained in the Journal of Discourses is simply referenced, all others are provided in their entirety from the journals and diaries they have been collected from, for the viewer to read.

Those interested in viewing the un-sanitized version of what Brigham Young actually taught should be aware of this resource. It was compiled by Elden Watson. Between it, and the Journal of Discourses, you can read virtually every discourse of Brigham Young’s that we have public record of.

I consider Elden to be one the foremost authorities on what Brigham Young wrote including blacks and the priesthood, the Spiritual Wife doctrine, the Adam God doctrine and LDS Fundamentalism in general. I really appreciate the work he has done in compiling the discourses of Brigham Young.

It is interesting and unfortunate, in my opinion that LDS Fundamentalism has become associated with so many of the false doctrines that crept into the church AFTER the defiling of the Kirtland Temple.

The truth of the matter is that true LDS fundamentalism would be the doctrines and practices of the Latter Day Saint foundation movement between 1830 and September 11 1836 (when the Saints failed to redeem Zion by that appointed time).

1830-1836 is the time period when the fundamentals of the Gospel of Jesus Christ were taught in their purity. As early as 1831 God announced that the keys of the kingdom were with the Saints and that they had the fulness of the Gospel and the Everlasting Covenant that was from the beginning. The Saints had every covenant and ordinance they needed to become exalted during that six year window of time.

It was AFTER the great apostasy in Kirtland, which included the defiling of the temple and the breaking of the everlasting covenant and the withdrawing of the fulness of the priesthood, etc. that the Saints were no longer able to endure sound doctrine. It was after that time that the windows of heaven began to close and revelations through the prophet Joseph Smith began to dry up. It was after the six year window of time that the Spiritual Wife Doctrine as well as all of the BYBSD’s (Brigham Young B. S. Doctrines) such as blacks and the priesthood, Adam God, Blood Atonement, Second Endowment, etc. crept into the church.

Truly God began to turn the church over to Satan as he had promised to do in the book of commandments.

It occurred to me as I was re-reading some of the discourses of Brigham Young and re-reading some of his statements about the blacks, that as I was speaking about my old friend “Frank” in a previous post, and how he hated all people with dark skin, that I took it for granted that my readers knew that the doctrine Brigham Young taught was false, hence I didn’t go into detail from a doctrinal point of view.

One of these days I’ll do a post on that issue and provide scriptures documenting why, in the meridian of time, color was no longer an issue.

For now however, I do want to remind everyone that Joseph Smith NEVER taught that blacks cannot hold the priesthood and in fact, there was a black man that was ordained to the priesthood while Joseph was presiding over the church. In fact it appears that Joseph Smith or his father is the one who ordained him.

Elijah Abel was baptized in 1832 and ordained an elder March 3 1836. Eventually, Elijah was ordained a Seventy by Zebedee Coltrin.

The Mormon Heretic (Not me, but someone else calling themselves the Mormon Heretic) did a fine post on Early Black Members of the Church. I highly recommend it for those who still struggle with the bigotry that is in our church thanks to Brother Brigham. I personally believe that Brother Brigham got more inspiration from Albert Pike than Joseph Smith regarding blacks and the priesthood and the temple endowment.

Getting back to Eldon, he has also become the resident expert on the Adam-God Doctrine within the Church and if my memory serves me right he is the one that provided the historical documentation that finally convinced Bruce R McConkie that Brigham Young did in fact teach what critics have been accusing him of having taught regarding that doctrine. (McConkie erroneously taught that Brigham Young never taught it in his book; Mormon Doctrine)

Many years ago I met with Elden and discussed many issues with him back when I was studying LDS Fundamentalism and the principle of plural marriage.

The other day I was perusing his personal website and noticed a few misc. articles he wrote.

One of them contained a fascinating explanation of the following very controversial verse in section 124;

And with iron, with copper, and with brass, and with zinc, and with all your precious things of the earth; and build a house to my name, for the Most High to dwell therein. For there is not a place found on earth that he may come to and restore again that which was lost unto you, or which he hath taken away, even the fulness of the priesthood.”

Although I disagree with Elden’s specific interpretation and resulting spin on the above passages, I appreciate that he is one of the few LDS apologists I am aware of that truthfully acknowledges that the passages do verify that the fulness of the priesthood had been lost from the earth between the time the Saints were living in Kirtland and their ultimate migration to Nauvoo after being forced out of Far West.

He also duly acknowledges that Oliver jointly held the keys with Joseph, that were committed to them in the Kirtland Temple. Most apologists I am aware of, conveniently overlook that most important fact.

Elden erroneously postulates however, that Hyrum takes Oliver’s place in the marvelous Work which is patently false. Although Hyrum did temporarily fill in for Oliver in the 2nd watch, we shall see that Oliver shall take his rightful place in the 3rd watch.

Elden takes a huge leap when he makes the following statement;

“there was no place where the keys of Elias and Elijah, which the Lord calls the fulness of the priesthood” could be restored until the temple is built.

He makes it sound as if it is common knowledge, that the “fulness of the priesthood” is synonymous with the keys that were committed to Joseph and Oliver in the Kirtland Temple, or that those particular keys were what originally introduced the fulness of the priesthood upon the earth.

I challenge that interpretation.

The fact of the matter is that Elden is simply laying the foundation for his hypothesis. The problem is that he doesn’t give a credible scriptural reference equating the fulness of the priesthood with the committing of priesthood keys to Joseph and Oliver in the Kirtland Temple.

The reason for this is that no such documentation exists in the scriptures.

Read section 110 carefully, it never designates the committing of priesthood keys with the fulness of the priesthood.

In fact, do a key word search, the only place the phrase “fulness of the priesthood” shows up in the standard works, including the JST translation, is in section 124 is when God reveals that it has been taken away.

Elden has the same “blind spot” that all other LDS apologists seem to have. Ironically it is a blind spot that LDS fundamentalists have as well.

It is with regard to the amazing, miraculous event that took place at the conference at the Morley Farm long before the Kirtland Temple experience contained in section 110 ever took place, wherein the “High Priesthood” after the holy order of the Son of God was conferred for the first time upon the earth.

At that conference, the first two to receive the highest priesthood were Lyman Wight and Joseph Smith Jr. At his time Lyman and others of the other newly ordained High Priests had the heavens opened and they beheld the Son of God standing on the right hand of the Father.

Twenty three people on that occasion were ordained unto the high priesthood according to the voice of God out of heaven. That is a rather odd number. One would expect it to be 12 or 24. (See D&C 52 and HC 1:75-9 BTW I speculate that the 24th place was reserved for someone specific that wasn’t at the conference. Possibly Oliver Cowdery who was conspicuously missing at that conference.)

Unlike the previous reception of the lesser priesthood, which is after the order of Aaron, and the higher priesthood after the patriarchal order past down from Abraham to Moses, which were both previously bestowed upon Joseph and Oliver and other recipients according to lineage, according to mother or father, or according to the will of man as mentioned in section 84, the High Priesthood (highest priesthood) after the order of the Son of Man, was designated according to the voice of God out of heaven on that occasion at the special conference at the Morley Farm.

It was not the priesthood associated with Aaron and his seed nor was it the patriarchal priesthood which was also linear and was past down from Abraham to Moses, but rather it is the fulness of the priesthood that Melchizedek, Enoch and Elijah all obtained through covenant directly with God;

Now Melchizedek was a man of faith, who wrought righteousness; and when a child he feared God, and stopped the mouths of lions, and quenched the violence of fire.
And thus, having been approved of God, he was ordained an high priest after the order of the covenant which God made with Enoch,
It being after the order of the Son of God; which order came, not by man, nor the will of man; neither by father nor mother; neither by beginning of days nor end of years; but of God;
And it was delivered unto men by the calling of his own voice, according to his own will, unto as many as believed on his name

( )

I would submit that the “fulness of the priesthood” that had been lost from the earth, spoken of in section 124 has reference to the Highest Priesthood after the order of the Son of God that was conferred at the special conference at the Morley Farm.

It appears to have been conferred at that time for the specific purpose of preparing the Saints to live consecration and establish Zion, first in Jackson county, the center place, and secondly, in Kirtland which was to be an appending stake of Zion.

That is why the first order of business after the ordinations to the Highest Priesthood according to section 52, was for the High Priests and their missionary companions to go on missions on the way to the Land of Missouri, preaching along the way. The Lord was going to designate at the next conference in Missouri where the land of Zion would be, where the Celestial law of consecration could be lived and Zion could be established.

The fact that there was not yet a temple available in 1831 was not a problem since the Saints had not yet completed and defiled a temple and since they had not yet been commanded to build one. God allows his righteous Saints to get their spiritual endowments on the mountains when temples are not available.

That was the first time that the office of High Priest within the Melchizedek priesthood was revealed and people were ordained to it. The fulness of that particular office and ordination appears to be realized when one receives their calling and election from none other than Jesus Christ, however, after the Kirtland apostasy and the eventual migration to Nauvoo, the original doctrine of calling and election as defined in the scriptures and the words of Joseph Smith seems to have been supplanted or morphed into the “second anointing” or “second endowment”.

The so-called second anointing or second endowment wherein the supposed mortal holder of the priesthood keys provides an ordinance sealing people up to eternal life, seems to have replaced the true doctrine of “calling and election”. (I acknowledge that the scriptures indicate that God’s servants will return in the 3rd watch and will be sealing people up to eternal life, however this is different than what Brigham Young was doing in his Masonic temple ordinances. I will address the topic of the “fulness of the priesthood” and the special conference in 1831 and the holy order of the priesthood and the nature of the three different levels of priesthood in a forthcoming post as well as in my upcoming with the Art Bulla.)

Unfortunately most LDS scholars and authors try to minimize what happened on that occasion or sweep it under the carpet all together because they can’t adequately explain the apparent discrepancy that it creates in their minds. They think there are only two priesthoods and that both priesthoods had already been conferred upon Joseph and Oliver. (confusion about the priesthood and the belief that the “lesser” and “higher” priesthoods spoken of in section 84 are the only divisions of priesthood, comes mainly from Joseph Smiths declaration that “all priesthood is Melchezedek” and the statements in D&C 107: 1, 21 that there are only two priesthoods in the church.. more on that later. More progressive LDS scholars admit there are three divisions of priesthood but that get the order wrong, postulating that the middle priesthood is Melchizedek and the highest priesthood is Patriarchal. That is incorrect. Joseph Smith gave a discourse teaching that the patriarchal priesthood associated with Abraham and Moses follows the Aaronic priesthood and that the Melchezedek priesthood after the holy order of the Son of God is the last and highest priesthood. Click one the following link to see an article depicting the typical LDS view of the three priesthoods)

Provided below are some paragraphs from Elden’s website containing his speculations and eventually Elden’s spin about the fulness of the Gospel and, in his opinion how the reinstatement of the fulness of the priesthood was to be predicated on either the return of Oliver Cowdery to the church or the replacement of Oliver Cowdery with Hyrum Smith.

I will make a few remarks after the portions of Elden’s text and a few comments in red during the text;

Commitment of Keys in the Kirtland Temple

By 1836 the First Presidency of the Church had been organized. Joseph Smith at this time had two counselors, Sidney Rigdon and Frederick G. Williams. One would reasonably suppose that either Sidney Rigdon or Frederick G. Williams or both might accompany Joseph Smith behind the temple veil when the keys were committed in the Kirtland temple, but instead it was again Oliver Cowdery who was with Joseph in receiving the vision.

This is our first real indication that the second witness was not any arbitrary individual, but it was necessarily the same witness for all of the priesthood keys which were restored. This may also be an affirmation that Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery already held all of the keys of the priesthood which could be restored, and that the appearance of the messengers in the Kirtland temple was not to restore additional keys, but to instruct, teach and commit to Joseph and Oliver, those things which it was necessary to do with the keys they already held, hence the wording that the keys were “committed” to them, rather than saying “restored” or “conferred.” Among other meanings of the word “committed,” Noah Websters 1828 Dictionary of the English language includes the following: “To engage; to pledge; or to pledge by implication. “Commitment” includes the meaning “The act of delivering in charge or entrusting.” [I find that to be a pretty weak argument that is trying to justify that all priesthood keys had been given via John the Baptist and Peter James and John.]


Section 110 of the Doctrine and Covenants summarizes Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery’s April 3, 1836 vision of Christ and then sequential visions of several other angels in the Kirtland temple. After the vision of Christ closed, the first of the angels mentioned was Moses.

After this vision closed, the heavens were again opened unto us; and Moses appeared before us, and committed unto us the keys of the gathering of Israel from the four parts of the earth, and the leading of the ten tribes from the land of the north. [D&C110:11]

Again, note that the keys are here spoken of as being “committed,” rather than being restored or conferred etc.

Apparently the actual implementation of these keys committed by Moses began on Sunday, the first of June 1837, when the Prophet Joseph Smith approached Heber C. Kimball in the Kirtland Temple and called him on a mission.

On or about the first day of June 1837, the Prophet Joseph came to me, while I was seated in the front stand, above the sacrament table on the Melchizedek side of the temple, in Kirtland, and whispering to me, said brother Heber, the Spirit of the Lord has whispered to me, “Let my servant Heber go to England and proclaim my gospel and open the door of salvation to that nation.” [Heber Kimball Journal, Millennial Star 26 (1864), p. 584]

On the fourth of June 1837 Heber C. Kimball was set apart to head the mission to England by Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon. Orson Hyde was set apart to be his companion on this mission, and four others were set apart to accompany them: Elder John Goodsen, Elder Isaac Russell, and two priests, Joseph Fielding and John Snider. The keys of the gathering of Israel were turned. Thus began the gathering of Israel from the four parts of the earth. [see Stanley B. Kimball, On the Potter’s Wheel, p 4.]

Although Oliver Cowdery was the second witness and jointly held the keys with Joseph, yet there is no record that Oliver took any active role in either the calling of Heber to his mission in England or in setting him apart for that mission.


After this, Elias appeared, and committed the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham, saying that in us and our seed all generations after us should be blessed. [D&C 110:12]

So who is Elias? why is he committing the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham? and what is this dispensation of the gospel of Abraham that he committed?

Elias is none other than Gabriel, or Noah (compare D&C 27:7 with Luke 1:11-19) to whom the Lord has committed the keys of the restoration of all things concerning the last days (D&C 27:7). He is second only to Adam in the priesthood, under Christ.

The Priesthood was first given to Adam; he obtained the First Presidency, and held the keys of it from generation to generation. He obtained it in the Creation, before the world was formed, as in Genesis 1:26, 27, 28. He had dominion given him over every living creature. He is Michael the Archangel, spoken of in the Scriptures. Then to Noah, who is Gabriel: he stands next in authority to Adam in the Priesthood; he was called of God to this office, and was the father of all living in this day, and to him was given the dominion. These men held keys first on earth, and then in heaven. [Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p.157]

A dispensation normally has reference to something that is dispensed, or given out. With respect to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, it typically refers to authority, keys, promises or instructions which are given to bestow particular blessings or to perform certain tasks, functions, or ordinances.

It is reasonable that Elias would restore the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham because there was no break in the priesthood between Noah and Abraham and hence the keys of the gospel which Abraham held was not through a new dispensation from the heavens, but came to Abraham through regular priesthood succession through the prophets from Noah. [I believe it is more reasonable to believer that Abraham would dispense the Gospel of Abraham, particularly since the Lord promised him that he would visit his posterity in the latter days in the book of Abraham]

Which Abraham received the priesthood from Melchizedek, who received it through the lineage of his fathers, even till Noah. [D&C 84:14]

According to section 110 of the Doctrine and Covenants, the dispensation restored was the promise that “in us and our seed, all generations after us should be blessed.” These words have specific reference to the promise which was given by the Lord to Abraham as recorded in Chapter 2 of the Book of Abraham.

My name is Jehovah, and I know the end from the beginning; therefore my hand shall be over thee.

And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee above measure, and make thy name great among all nations, and thou shalt be a blessing unto thy seed after thee, that in their hands they shall bear this ministry and Priesthood unto all nations;

And I will bless them through thy name; for as many as receive this Gospel shall be called after thy name, and shall be accounted thy seed, and shall rise up and bless thee, as their father;

And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse them that curse thee; and in thee (that is, in thy Priesthood) and in thy seed (that is, thy Priesthood), for I give unto thee a promise that this right shall continue in thee, and in thy seed after thee (that is to say, the literal seed, or the seed of the body) shall all the families of the earth be blessed, even with the blessings of the Gospel, which are the blessings of salvation, even of life eternal. [Abraham 2:8-11]

The blessings of Abraham, then, include the promise that our descendants will have the right to the priesthood and that through our seed the priesthood and the blessings of the priesthood will be carried to all the families of the earth. Committing the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery would mean that they were authorized and instructed in how to perform gospel ordinances which will give the recipient the same promises and blessings that Abraham received. Brigham Young is very clear on what those ordinances are.

President Young Spoke to the people 58 minutes. He said that the whole Curse of the Earth had got to be taken off from the Earth by the Latter day Saints. We have got to be sanctified & Sanctify all the Earth & we have got to begin by sanctifying our own hearts first & then spread out. How many of the Children of this people are Entitled to the Holy Priesthood & the Blessings of Abraham? All who are born after their parents have received their Endowments & are sealed & all others will have to be adopted to their parents. All who want the Blessings of Abram Isaac & Jacob go & get your Endowments before you get married. Then all your Children will be heirs to the priesthood. There is no Son has a right to the Priesthood & heirship unless their parents had their Endowments before they were born. Such must be adopted to their Parents or they have no right to heirship. Let no youth get married until they get their Endowments & get sealed at the Altar. If young men knew what was for their good they would go hundreds of miles to get married right before they would do as many have. Our boys who are guided by a right hand will be mighty men of God in the Earth. [Watson, Brigham Young Addresses, Vol. 5, 13 July 1865] [This is where the common belief that those “born under the covenant” are more valiant that those who are not. It is a vintage Brigham Young Bullshit doctrine]

Note that it is specifically by receiving the endowment before marriage that the blessings committed by Elias to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in the Kirtland temple are to be obtained. Joseph Smith indicated that those keys committed by Elias are preparatory keys: [Elden has a huge problem with this claim as the Nauvoo Temple was never completed and the keys to the dispensation of the fulness of times were never turned. The true endowment never occurred in the Nauvoo Temple. By Brigham Young’s own admission, even the fullness of his Masonic endowment was never given in the Nauvoo Temple. Hence trying to link the spiritual endowment pertaining to the keys of Elias, that were committed in the Kirtland Temple to the in modern day Masonic endowment in Mormon Temples is laid on a sandy foundation.]

“What I want to impress upon your minds is the difference of power in the different parts of the Priesthood, so that when any man comes among you saying, “I have the spirit of Elias,” you can know whether he be true or false; for any man that comes, having the spirit and power of Elias, he will not transcend his bounds.

“John did not transcend his bounds, but faithfully performed that part belonging to his office; and every portion of the great building should be prepared right and assigned to its proper place; and it is necessary to know who holds the keys of power, and who does not, or we may be likely to be deceived.

“That person who holds the keys of Elias hath a preparatory work. But if I spend much more time in conversing about the spirit of Elias, I shall not have time to do justice to the spirit and power of Elijah. [TPJS 336]

It was evidently the instructions and commitment to institute the ordinance we today know as the endowment that was restored by Elias in the Kirtland temple. There was, however, a longer than anticipated delay between the commitment of the keys in the Kirtland temple and the actual initiation of the endowment. Before the endowment could be instituted it was necessary to prepare a facility in which the ordinances of the endowment could be properly administered. The temple in Kirtland was not built with the administration of the endowment in mind, and was not well suited for that application. Some initial ordinances were performed in the Kirtland temple, but these were only a small portion of the endowment and would roughly correspond with what we today call washings and anointings.

Before a great deal could be done toward preparing proper facilities, difficulties arose through a spirit of apostasy which culminated with the Prophet Joseph Smith fleeing Kirtland in January of 1838.

There was little time in Missouri for the saints to build a temple. Still, the Lord kept pushing the saints in that direction. On April 26, 1838, Joseph Smith received a revelation instructing the saints that a temple was to be built at Far West.

Let the city, Far West, be a holy and consecrated land unto me; and it shall be called most holy, for the ground upon which thou standest is holy.

Therefore, I command you to build a house unto me, for the gathering together of my saints, that they may worship me. [D&C 115:7-8]

During Joseph Smith’s lifetime, the temple itself got no farther than the dedication of the site and the laying of the cornerstone on April 26, 1839.

Even prior to the commandment to build a temple in Far West, however, a more serious problem arose. Oliver Cowdery left the Church. He was excommunicated at Far West on April 12, 1838. The second witness was no longer in the church. What implication did this hold with respect to the keys which had been restored in Kirtland? [I applaud Elden for acknowledging Olivers role as a 2nd witness and the fact that Oliver jointly held priesthood keys with Joseph]

About the same time Oliver left the church, with most of the Saints having departed Kirtland, the temple was given over to the “Western Reserve Teacher’s Seminary and Kirtland Institute.” The following is from a broadside which was printed and distributed in Kirtland:

The Mormons of Kirtland, Geauga County Ohio, having broken up, and nearly all removed to the State of Missouri, it has been thought expedient to establish an institution of learning in the place, and thus occupy buildings which would otherwise remain comparatively useless. For this purpose the use of their large and commodious Temple, has been secured for five years from the 1st Sept. 1838. In this edifice we have a single room sufficiently large to seat well, two hundred students . . . NELSON SLATER, Principal. Kirtland, July 25, 1838.” [Robison, The First Mormon Temple, p 101.]

With the Kirtland temple no longer in the hands of the Church, there was no place where the keys of Elias and Elijah, which the Lord calls the fulness of the priesthood, could be implemented when Oliver Cowdery returned to the Church. Or, if he did not return, a place where the keys could be restored again to two witnesses.

Apparently even though the keys had been committed to Joseph and Oliver in the Kirtland temple, nevertheless they could not be implemented with only one witness. Because of this, the keys were effectively lost and would have to be restored again. [ Total speculation. Again,I submit the fullness of the priesthood had to do with the conference in Kirtland wherein the High Priesthood after the order of Enoch and Melchizedek was revealed and bestowed]

The Lord waited for more than a year and a half for Oliver to come back into the Church, and then, in January of 1841 the Lord commanded the construction of a temple in Nauvoo for the purpose of restoring those priesthood keys which had been lost through Oliver Cowdery’s excommunication.

26 And send ye swift messengers, yea, chosen messengers, and say unto them: Come ye, with all your gold, and your silver, and your precious stones, and with all your antiquities; and with all who have knowledge of antiquities, that will come, may come, and bring the box-tree, and the fir-tree, and the pine-tree, together with all the precious trees of the earth;

27 And with iron, with copper, and with brass, and with zinc, and with all your precious things of the earth; and build a house to my name, for the Most High to dwell therein.

28 For there is not a place found on earth that he may come to and restore again that which was lost unto you, or which he hath taken away, even the fulness of the priesthood. [D&C 124:26-28, emphasis added]

The fulness of the priesthood, although once delivered, was lost to the church and had to be restored again. [Amen! I agree! ]In the same revelation, given January 19, 1841 the Lord arranged to remedy the situation by calling Hyrum Smith to replace Oliver Cowdery as the second witness. [Wrong! I disagree. The remedy was not in replacing Oliver with Hyrum, it was in obeying the commandments and completing the temple so that the heavens could begin opening up again and the commandment to live the law of consecration could finally be obeyed so that God could once again bestow the High Priesthood (fullness of the Priesthood) again.]

And from this time forth I appoint unto him [Hyrum] that he may be a prophet, and a seer, and a revelator unto my church, as well as my servant Joseph;

That he may act in concert also with my servant Joseph; and that he shall receive counsel from my servant Joseph, who shall show unto him the keys whereby he may ask and receive, and be crowned with the same blessing, and glory, and honor, and priesthood, and gifts of the priesthood, that once were put upon him that was my servant Oliver Cowdery;

That my servant Hyrum may bear record of the things which I shall show unto him, that his name may be had in honorable remembrance from generation to generation, forever and ever. [D&C 124:94-96]

Several years ago President Henry W. Richards told me that in a private conversation with President Joseph Fielding Smith, then President of the Quorum of the Twelve, he had discussed the concept of Hyrum Smith replacing Oliver Cowdery as second witness in the Church. President Smith told him that although it could not be documented, he knew that after being called to replace Oliver Cowdery, his grandfather (Hyrum Smith) had been visited by all of those heavenly messengers who had restored keys to Joseph and Oliver, and each in turn bore witness to Hyrum that they had restored their keys to Joseph and Oliver and at the same time those keys were received by Hyrum. President Joseph Fielding Smith further said that if Oliver Cowdery had not apostatized from the church, it would have been him (Oliver) instead of Hyrum who would have died with Joseph Smith in Carthage jail to seal their testimony with their blood.”

[End of Eldens comments]

Let me provide a little bit of a critique on what Elden said above before I get to the real issue I want to address.

  1. Elden acknowledges that it is a little strange that Oliver who jointly holds the keys with Joseph of sending the gospel to the four corners of the world is not involved in calling and ordaining the Twelve to their missions to England. If Elden understood the doctrine of the three watches and that they were currently in the 2nd watch, and if he understood how the fulness of the gospel had been taken from the Gentiles and the preparatory gospel was then being taken to the Jews, not to the four corners of the earth, it would all make sense to him.
  2. Sending the Twelve to England was not the fulfillment of sending the gospel to the four corners of the earth, to all 12 tribes of Israel. That is to take place in the 3rd watch, and Oliver will be involved in that. As I have pointed out in previous posts, Joseph Smith had said “something New Must be Done for the Salvation of the Church” This meant the gospel was now going from the gentiles in America (Ephraim and others mingled among the gentiles) to the Jew (Outcasts of Israel and dispersed of Judah mingled among the gentile nations)
  3. Elden speculates that “Elias is none other than Gabriel, or Noah”. I have addressed this issued on other posts. I hate to point out the obvious, but the one bringing the gospel of Abraham is Abraham.
  4. The key to rectifying the problem of the loss of the fullness of the priesthood is not in replacing Oliver with Hyrum, it is in being obedient to the commandment to build the temple which rectifies the problem cause by defiling the Kirtland Temple. Following that, the Saints could move forward and obey the commandment to live consecration and redeem Zion. Yet, Oliver was a key player and his estrangement from the church did pose a problem, however replacing him was only a temporary solution because he ultimately needs to return to his calling.

Now, for the main point I wanted to address.

People erroneously assume that Oliver Cowdery had fallen from his position in the work and kingdom of God and that he would never be able to finish the calling that he had been given. If this is the case one must wonder why God with his infinite foreknowledge gave priesthood keys jointly to him and Joseph.

I am going to suggest that Oliver had not fallen from his station and calling, never to return to it again. Furthermore, I believe he and Joseph knew it.

In April of 1843, Joseph directed that a letter be written to Oliver in Missouri.  He instructed that in the letter it ask if Oliver had “eaten husks long enough.”  This was and unmistakable reference to the parable of the Prodigal Son, the wayward son, who, after squandering all his inheritance, was sent to the fields to feed the swine where “he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat” (Luke 15:16).  Oliver was being reminded that he had squandered all that had previously been given him— the visions, the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods, his membership, and his Church office, the keys he had jointly been given with Joseph, etc.  Joseph directed that the letter ask Oliver if he was “almost” ready to return and be clothed with the “robes of righteousness.” (HC 5:368).

I think they both knew that the work could not and would not go on without both people to whom the keys had jointly been given. The offer to Oliver to return to the robes of righteousness was extending to him the remarkable opportunity to return to his position, priesthood and former standing in the Church!

In addition to making known to Oliver that his former inheritance would be restored to him, he made a most cryptic offer to him by telling him that Orson Hyde “had need of him” in going “up to Jerusalem“.

Of course some surface readers may assume that Joseph Smith was inviting Oliver to go to the Old World with Orson Hyde to the Old Jerusalem, not noticing that this letter was written several years after Hyde had returned from his mission in the Old World.

I have written in previous posts about how confused Hyde was on that mission to the Old World and how he was not supposed to dedicate the Old World for the gathering of the Jews but rather he was commissioned by Joseph Smith to tell his converts to gather to America.

I am not aware of a second mission to the Old World that was being discussed in 1843.

I would submit to you that the future prophetic mission to Jerusalem that Joseph Smith was referring to that needed to include Orson Pratt and Oliver Cowdery had to do with a different Jerusalem.

Indeed, Joseph was speaking cryptically in a way that Oliver understood.

The blessing that Orson Hyde had been given telling him he would go on a mission to Jerusalem which had motivated his desire to go on a mission to the Old World, was not even referring to the Old World!

It was talking about a future mission to the Jerusalem in America. Oliver Cowdery understood this even though Orson Hyde did not.

The mission Oliver needed to be involved in pertaining to the keys he got in the Kirtland Temple had to do with the following passages in section 109;

Now these words, O Lord, we have spoken before thee, concerning the revelations and commandments which thou hast given unto us, who are identified with the Gentiles. But thou knowest that thou hast a great love for the children of Jacob, who have been scattered upon the mountains for a long time, in a cloudy and dark day. We therefore ask thee to have mercy upon the children of Jacob, that Jerusalem, from this hour, may begin to be redeemed; And the yoke of bondage may begin to be broken off from the house of David; And the children of Judah may begin to return to the lands which thou didst give to Abraham, their father.” D&C 109: 62

As I have stated and proven beyond doubt in previous posts, the land that the Lord gave to the latter day posterity of Abraham is America! Section 133 makes it clear that all of the tribes are to gather to America. The Jerusalem being spoken of in section 109 (and also sections D&C 124: 36, D&C 133: 13, 21, 24, 56) is KIRTLAND OHIO!

Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith have huge roles to play in the above passages, during the 3rd watch. They and others, like Orson Hyde, will facilitate in the redemption of Jerusalem and the returning of Judah to the latter day Jerusalem.

PROD’IGAL, a. [L. produgus, from prodigo, to drive forth, to lavish.]1. Given to extravagant expenditures; expending money or other things without necessity; profuse, lavish; wasteful; not frugal or economical; as a prodigal man; the prodigal son. A man may be prodigal of his strength, of his health, of his life or blood, as well as of his money.


5 Responses to The Return of the Prodigal Son

  1. NEPT says:

    Once again you prove very timely Watcher. Just today, while discussing section 84 and 107 in “gospel doctrine”, I made the comment that on multiple occasions during the Nauvoo period JS remarked that there are three grand heads/divisions/keys of the priesthood as you have described (Sons of God, Patriarchal, Sons of Moses/Aaron). Unfortunately, I drew the ire of a previous bishop of the ward, who was also a former missionary to the Nauvoo temple district, when I opined that section 86 describes a patriarchal priesthood authority passed down though JS’s lineage. It seems rather obvious to me, especially when coupled with the prophecies of Joseph of Old in Genesis and 2 Nephi 3, but apparently I was spreading false doctrine and was reprimanded as such. He corrected me by saying that the “commentary” regarding those verses describe that authority was given to JS by virtue of being part of the family of Israel, and that the ‘fathers’ spoken of are simply those of ancient times. I don’t see that the two of our interpretations are mutually exclusive, but in his eyes I was way off base. Not to worry though, I was able to practice some long-suffering and patience in this wonderful journey toward charity!

  2. Soooo, what is the project? Something we will benefit from, I hope!
    Sometimes I wish I had time to go read some of the things available in SLC.

    NEPT, you are brave. I’m glad you were able to difuse the situation. We are a lesson behind you. It was very difficult to listen to the high-gloss simplistic stories of why people left/leave the church.

    Watcher, I recently read an interesting take on the story of the Prodigal Son. The preacher talked about how by definition the father was prodigal when he lavished gifts and a party on his son. Watching for and running to his son was against cultural norms. Our Father in Heaven is prodigal in his love and mercy towards us. I enjoyed looking at this story from a different POV.

  3. Fabledsog says:

    Now the prodigal son..being the younger brother. Which means that if Joseph was referencing to and of Oliver that he was a type of the prodigal son. Wonder who he thought was the older brother, maybe he thought of himself the older brother. Which would make sense considering the foundational events that these two shared.

  4. Interesting thoughts Fabledsog

    I would have assumed that Joseph and Oliver represented the two bothers… if the parable can be applied to the situation beyond the insinuation made by Joseph.

    I just realized that Oliver was a year younger than Joseph in real life which also fits…

    On the other hand, the fact that Joseph sent the invitation to Oliver does put him more as the father figure than the brother figure…

    In which case perhaps someone like Sidney might be considered as the older brother figure.

    It is interesting how Sidney stayed with the church up to the martyrdom while Oliver left…. which fits the parable.

    Sidney is also older than Oliver.

    Lastly, there may have been some jealousy between the two since Oliver was the first associate president of the church and Sidney kind of stole the show and became equal in holding the keys with Joseph.

    I have often wondered if perhaps Oliver was a typological figure for the priesthood of Aaron while Sidney was a typological figure for the priesthood of Moses…

    Anyway, it is interesting to ponder the possibilities…


  5. Fabledsog says:

    Well I recognized Christ as the Father. And the goods of a spiritual nature. And thanks to your wonderful expounding of how the windows of revelation were starting to close. I was then able to recognize a spiritual famine, if that is what it was.

    For all we know the Lord, could have sent Joseph to be a messenger, similar to God the Father sending the Firstborn Son to be a messenger.

    While, I didn’t observe Sidney as the older brother, its good for him to be brought up for a equation such as this, with his covered up spiritual aptitude. I probably didn’t think of this because of my collected notions. Since I view parables especially from Christ as parallels of spiritual truths.

    While Sidney is older than Oliver, he is also older than Joseph, so that wouldn’t work if the age factor was literal. But either or, the age is quite the coincidence.

    The jealousy could have been the atonement offering effect, while lust was prevalent with Joseph, other sins besides lust could have been showing through others such as jealousy. Maybe the offering was the reason for Oliver becoming like the prodigal son. Speaking of which as the more I observed this latter day offering I realized something. The greatest thing that Jesus Christ ever did was take up all the worlds sins. Did He do it by His Order? If so, partakers of that Order are they allowed to do the same partly in a part of the vineyard? Even though its to hard to believe, still to me its believable.

    Even though Sidney and Joseph are equal in holding the keys, because of the seer and spokesman relationship. Joseph and Oliver are equal, of another. (Speaking of which, just wondering Watcher if you still use the email, I’ve contacted you in the past. Just want to know if you got my preface email “hidden beginnings”,regardless of the answer. Just so I can get rid of my anxiety.) In fact if Joseph were to not abide in the Lord in the 3rd watch. I believe that Oliver would take Joseph’s place as seer.

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