“His Unworthy Servant”

Recently a reader of this blog reminded me of an early entry by Joseph Smith revealing that Oliver Cowdery had seen Christ very early in the LDS restoration movement

Joseph Smith stated that

the Lord “appeared unto a young man by the name of Oliver Cowdery and showed unto him the plates in a vision, and also the truth of the work, and what the Lord was about to do through me, his unworthy servant. Therefore, he was desirous to come and write for me, and translate.” (The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, ed. Dean C. Jessee, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1984, p. 8. Spelling and punctuation modernized.)

The context in which the reader of this blog brought it up had to do with Oliver Cowdery’s calling as an apostle.

Oliver Cowdery was one of the key players chosen by God to choose and call the quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

Oliver was already an apostle himself before he called and ordained those that would serve in the quorum of the Twelve.

He and David Whitmer had been told in scripture that their calling was the same as Paul’s, apparently having reference to the fact that Paul was not called and ordained as part of the formal quorum of the Twelve as were Peter, James, John and the other members of the quorum.

9 And now, Oliver Cowdery, I speak unto you, and also unto David Whitmer, by the way of commandment; for, behold, I command all men everywhere to repent, and I speak unto you, even as unto Paul mine apostle, for you are called even with that same calling with which he was called. Doctrine and Covenants 18:9

The above passage would indicate that David had had a similar visitation as Oliver.

Another account speaks of Oliver and David being shown the plates by an “angel” of the Lord and hearing the Lords voice.

It is possible that the “angel” was the “angel of his presence” which is a term that very possibly refers to Christ the Son as the angel that the presence of the Father dwells in.

It is interesting that Paul was the example given in the above passage, not Peter or the other apostles.

Paul was called by Christ through the veil by vision AFTER the crucifixion, not prior to it, as were the other apostles in the New Testament quorum of the Twelve.

Paul was called to act as an apostle independently from the quorum of the Twelve. For those reasons, one might classify and differentiate Paul’s calling from those of the quorum.

It appears as if Oliver and David Whitmer and others of the LDS restoration outside of the quorum of the Twelve, fall into a similar category of apostleship as Paul.

The fact that Christ had appeared to Oliver in vision before the formal organization of the church makes perfect sense when one considers the declaration,  commission and mandate that Oliver Cowdery gave to Brigham Young and the other members of the quorum of the twelve when they were called in 1835.

I have previously blogged about the very interesting fact that Oliver and David delayed the choosing and calling of the quorum of the Twelve for about FIVE years after being commanded to do so. This was intentional because their calling to take the KNOWLEDGE of the gospel to the House of Israel was to take place AFTER the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham was secretly ushered in.

I am of the belief that the quorum of the Twelve was not to be called and ordained until AFTER the very first wave of missionary work to the gentiles took place and the fulness of the gospel had been rejected by the Gentile church in Kirtland.

The quorum of the Twelve were called to briefly take the gospel to the gentiles and then take the KNOWLEDGE of the fulness to the House of Israel AFTER the fulness of the Gospel had been rejected by the Gentile church.

Here are selected excerpts from the commission given from Oliver Cowdery to the Twelve. It is evident in the remarks that this calling and commission was a PRELIMINARY calling and commission and that the fulness of the office of apostleship would not be complete until a later time when these brethren have seen the face of God and can testify of his resurrection from personal knowledge:

“..You have many revelations put into your hands, revelations to make you acquainted with the nature of your mission..

You have been ordained to the Holy Priesthood [referring to the patriarchal prieshood of Abraham which priesthood keys had been restored by John the Baptist]. 

You have received it from those who had their power and authority from an angel. 

You are to preach the Gospel to every nation.  Should you in the least degree come short of your duty, great will be your condemnation, for the greater the calling, the greater the transgression.  I, therefore, warn you to cultivate great humility, for I know the pride of the human heart.  Beware lest the flatterers of the world lift you up.  Beware lest your affections are captivated by worldly objects.

..You have been indebted to other men in the first instance for evidence, on that you have acted. [Brigham Young and his brethren had not seen the face of God. They were exercising faith in the testimony of Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery and others]

But it is necessary that you receive a testimony from Heaven for yourselves, so that you can bear testimony to the truth of the Book of Mormon, and that you have seen the face of God; that is more than the testimony of an angel. [Clearly, their faith in the testimony of others was not sufficient, they needed to see the face of God for themselves]

When the proper time arrives, you shall be able to bear this testimony to the world. [This is implying that these brethren will have seen the face of God in the third watch when their apostleship is complete and they finish their work]

When you bear testimony that you have seen God, this testimony God will never suffer to fall, but will bear you out, although many will not give heed, yet others will.  You will therefore see the necessity of getting this testimony from Heaven.

  Never cease striving until you have seen God face to face.  Strengthen your faith, cast off your doubts, your sins and all your unbelief, and nothing can prevent you from coming to God. 

Your ordination is not full and complete till God has laid His hand upon you.  We require as much to qualify us as did those who have gone before us.  God is the same.  If the Savior in former days laid His hands on His disciples, why not in the latter days?

Wow.

Lots of food for thought in that commission and admonitions.

Here are a few thoughts that come into my mind as I read those words

You have been ordained to the Holy Priesthood.  You have received it from those who had their power and authority from an angel.

The initial calling of Elder and Apostle comes under the keys of the Patriarchal Abrahamic priesthood that was delivered under the hands of John the Baptist. They were not being ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood that had been revealed in 1831 at the Morley Farm and collectively rejected by the gentile church by the end of 1834.

You are to preach the Gospel to every nation

With no disrespect to the humble accomplishments this quorum had during Joseph’s first ministry and the fact that they successfully initiated the taking of the knowledge of the fulness of the gospel to the dispersed of Judah and outcasts of Israel, I believe the completion of their calling and mandate is yet future, when the marvelous work begins.

I, therefore, warn you to cultivate great humility, for I know the pride of the human heart. Beware lest your affections are captivated by worldly objects.

After retroactively canonizing a revelation releasing himself from a lifelong calling of the traveling apostleship, Brigham Young took upon himself the administrative role of guiding the church instead of being a traveling missionary that has no purse. He became wealthy and died as a multi-millionaire. One could argue that his affections were captivated by worldly objects… however, evidence suggests that his ministry might resume at a future time. If the first laborers of the last kingdom can return and complete their assignments, why not the second laborers?

..You have been indebted to other men in the first instance for evidence, on that you have acted.  But it is necessary that you receive a testimony from Heaven for yourselves, so that you can bear testimony to the truth of the Book of Mormon, and that you have seen the face of God; that is more than the testimony of an angel. 

When the proper time arrives, you shall be able to bear this testimony to the world.  When you bear testimony that you have seen God, this testimony God will never suffer to fall, but will bear you out, although many will not give heed, yet others will.  You will therefore see the necessity of getting this testimony from Heaven. 

Never cease striving until you have seen God face to face

Strengthen your faith, cast off your doubts, your sins and all your unbelief, and nothing can prevent you from coming to God. 

Your ordination is not full and complete till God has laid His hand upon you.  We require as much to qualify us as did those who have gone before us.  God is the same.  If the Savior in former days laid His hands on His disciples, why not in the latter days?

Brigham Young never claimed to see God and did not appear to be seeking his face once he got to Utah. He seemed to realize that a window of opportunity had come and gone. The Lord had said “call upon me while I am near“. After the rejection of the fulness, he was no longer near.

Nevertheless, I believe most if not all of the original members of the quorum of the Twelve will return to complete their assignments. Will their assignments be to the celestial or terrestrial portion of Gods people?

The above admonition and declaration on the necessity of seeing Christ and being ordained by him from Cowdery to the Twelve becomes even more powerful given the fact that Oliver had in fact seen Christ and was a true witness of his resurrection.

Furthermore, it would appear as if Christ had physically laid his hands on Oliver and ordained him either during that first vision or a subsequent appearance. Either that, or Oliver also needed to further solidify is his own calling in the future.

I find those fascinating issues to ponder and I appreciate the reader of this blog bringing the quote to my attention.

However, there is another reason this quote by Joseph Smith about Oliver Cowdery’s vision of Christ has been on my mind.

Joseph Smith’s referred to himself as an “unworthy servant“. That declaration really intrigues me.

I have always taken for granted that it was a common term used among the New Testament apostles.

Not so.

A keyword search reveals that the term only shows up once in all of the scriptures.

It is in the Book of Mormon

33 And it came to pass that king Limhi and many of his people were desirous to be baptized; but there was none in the land that had authority from God. And Ammon declined doing this thing, considering himself an unworthy servant.

I do not think Ammon is using the term “unworthy servant” in the same sense that Joseph Smith used it.

Joseph clearly felt worthy to administer the saving ordinances.

Hence, Joseph Smith seems to be using the term “unworthy servant” as a specific designation referring to his calling or status before God.

It possibly has to do with how he differentiated his “first commission” from his “second commission“.

“It is not necessary that God should give us all things in His first commission to us, but in His second. John saw the angel deliver the Gospel in the last days. The small lights that God has given are sufficient to lead us out of Babylon; when we get out, we shall have the greater light.” (TPJS 104)

Perhaps Joseph considered himself and his fellow servants to be “unworthy servants” until their second commission that will take place in the third watch, when the greater light will be given.

BTW

That passage about Ammon in the Book of Mormon is very instructive in that it provides yet another verification that priesthood “authority” from a “worthy” priesthood holder is required to perform the sacred ordinance of baptism.

This of course is just another of many passages of scripture that exposes the the false teachings of those that have claimed that priesthood authority is not necessary to perform baptism. (See Denver Snuffer’s claim in his book that performing baptisms does not require priesthood authority)

Interestingly, authority from God is not enough in the mind of Ammon. He felt that worthiness of the priesthood holder is requisite.

 

Advertisements

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: