In my opinion, Section 128 is one of the most overlooked and under rated revelations in the D&C.
This is partly because it does not begin in the first person of the Lord as most of the “thus sayeth the Lord” type revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants do. Rather, the content is taken from a letter in which Joseph Smith was primarily sharing his thoughts about the ordinance and doctrine pertaining to baptisms for the dead which had previously been revealed in section 124.
One would think that I would take section 128 even less seriously than most.
As readers of my blog know, I am of the belief that the Nauvoo era was one of the darkest periods of Joseph Smith’s ministry. The heavens were definitely closing at that time.
The saints had rejected the fullness of the gospel and fallen under condemnation by the end of 1834.
Shortly after that, the dispensation of the Gospel of Abraham was secretly ushered in right at the time that the saints had been expecting the dispensation of the fullness of times to be ushered in.
By the time that Section 124 was given in January of 1841, the saints of the restoration had being warned by the Lord that they would be rejected as a church with their dead if they did not repent and finish the Board House of the Lord within an acceptable time period.
There is evidence to suggest that the saints had been rejected as a church with their dead by the time section 128 had been received.
However one of the amazing things about Joseph Smith the seer, is that even after the seers eyes began to be covered because of the sins of latter day Israel, ( See JST Isaiah 29:10 & 2nd Nephi 27:5) his revelatory gift was still intermittently manifesting itself.
One of things I have come to appreciate over the years is that one does not categorically accept or reject a revelation based on the official title of someone that is sustained as a prophet. The truthfulness of each revelation must be discerned and judged under the influence of the Holy Ghost, using the existing canon of scriptures as a measuring yard stick.
Joseph worked well under pressure.
Some of his best stuff came while he was running from enemies and being incarcerated in a jail.
Thus it is with section 128 which is a revelation extracted from a letter he wrote during a very stressful time in his life.
The revelation begins thusly:
1 As I stated to you in my letter before I left my place, that I would write to you from time to time and give you information in relation to many subjects, I now resume the subject of the baptism for the dead, as that subject seems to occupy my mind, and press itself upon my feelings the strongest, since I have been pursued by my enemies.
What a rock star.
Here he is being pursued by his enemies and feeling the burden of the sins of Israel that have been placed upon his head as an intercessor, and he is methodically pondering the doctrine of baptism for the dead.
This very misunderstood doctrine shows up for the very first time in modern revelation in section 124:
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.
29 For a baptismal font there is not upon the earth, that they, my saints, may be baptized for those who are dead—
30 For this ordinance belongeth to my house, and cannot be acceptable to me, only in the days of your poverty, wherein ye are not able to build a house unto me.
31 But I command you, all ye my saints, to build a house unto me; and I grant unto you a sufficient time to build a house unto me; and during this time your baptisms shall be acceptable unto me.
As declared in the passages above, the mystical ordinance of baptisms for the dead can only be performed under the authority of the fulness of the priesthood which had been restored in June of 1831 and lost by the time that section 124 was given.
It should be noted that the ordinance of baptisms for the living is part of the fullness of the gospel as documented in 3rd Nephi and it is performed by the priesthood keys that were restored through John the Baptist as documented in D&C 13. However the ordinance of Baptisms for the Dead must be performed by the higher, Melchizedek Priesthood and it must be performed in the House of the Lord, below ground level.
Little did the saints realize that the knowledge Joseph was giving them in this communication was purely academic at that point in time. Nevertheless, the information being revealed about baptisms for the dead, and the certification process of recording those ordinances is incredibly important and revealing.
The Lord informed the saints in previous revelations, after they had transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, and broken the everlasting covenant, that they were not allowed to live the higher laws for a “little season“.
It was to be a little season of chastisement while they are to be taught more perfectly. (See D&C 100:13, 105:9-10 )
It is during this little season, in the fourth generation since the death of Joseph Smith, that we who believe in the restoration, are to be studying the revelations and taught more perfectly to prepare ourselves for when the final work begins.
Furthermore, as declared in section 124, during times when the saints have the necessary collective wealth, this sacred ordinance is only authorized to be done in the Lords House.
As documented in past posts, section 124 never refers to the “Nauvoo Temple” despite the indoctrinational spell and cursing that our generation has been under. It only addresses the Boarding House of the Lord.
We have been living during a time of “hidden darkness” but I am of the belief that the darkness is beginning to disperse and doctrinal understand is coming to light, in preparation for the return of God’s authorized servants.
Contrary to what is currently taught in the modern corporate church, every single reference to the Lord’s house in section 124 is speaking of the Boarding House of the Lord, not the Nauvoo Temple.
The location of the Nauvoo Temple had been picked before section 124 was received. Indeed, the construction of the Nauvoo Temple had begun before section 124 identifies the location of the Boarding House of the Lord.
At the time that section 124 was given, it was common knowledge that it was not speaking about the Nauvoo Temple. Indeed, the Nauvoo Temple committee had published an article in the Times and Seasons identifying section 97 as the revelatory mandate for building the Nauvoo Temple.
It is truly remarkable that so much of the plain and simple truths about history and doctrine have largely been lost or corrupted as a result of the latter day apostasy. Nevertheless there is great reason to hope that we are very close to the return of God’s servants and the final restoration.
Getting back to the topic of section 128, in this revelation Joseph Smith pontificates upon Heavens protocol for certifying and recording the ordinances of the gospel in general and specifically in this revelation, baptisms performed for the dead.
2 I wrote a few words of revelation to you concerning a recorder. I have had a few additional views in relation to this matter, which I now certify. That is, it was declared in my former letter that there should be a recorder, who should be eye-witness, and also to hear with his ears, that he might make a record of a truth before the Lord.
Joseph points out that the RECORD that is kept must be CERTIFIED by someone who sees with their eyes and hears with their ears. The record must contain the DATE, NAMES and the HISTORY of the whole transition. It must be validated by two or there witnesses:
let him (the recorder) be very particular and precise in taking the whole proceedings, certifying in his record that he saw with his eyes, and heard with his ears, giving the date, and names, and so forth, and the history of the whole transaction; naming also some three individuals that are present, if there be any present, who can at any time when called upon certify to the same, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.
The revelatory comments of the prophet go on to point out that the record is HOLY.
Further, he declares that the order of CERTIFICATION AND RECORD KEEPING OF ORDINANCES WAS PREPARED BEFORE THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD.
5 You may think this order of things to be very particular; but let me tell you that it is only to answer the will of God, by conforming to the ordinance and preparation that the Lord ordained and prepared before the foundation of the world, for the salvation of the dead who should die without a knowledge of the gospel
Perhaps one of the most illuminating concepts that is revealed in this section is the fact that the records kept in heaven are contingent upon the records kept on earth!
After providing the exact protocol and informing us that the certification of a record from the mouth of two or three witnesses was ordained by God before the foundation of the world, Joseph reveals that the “Book of life” mentioned by John the Revelator in the Book of Revelation which the dead will be judged out of, is the heavenly record of the ordinances of salvation that are recorded on earth!
That’s right, the word “works” as used in the Book of Revelation in conjunction with the “books” that are opened and the “book of life“, is not referring to doing good deeds or to the gospel of works that is commonly taught in Mormonism and other segments of apostate Christianity. The word “works” refers to entering into covenant with Christ as manifested by receiving the ordinance of baptism!
This makes perfect sense to me now that I have become a Biblical Christian who believes that we are saved by grace through faith. The true scriptural meaning of works in this context is simply referring to the physical act of entering into covenant with God as a manifestation of our belief and faith in his ability to save us
6 And further, I want you to remember that John the Revelator was contemplating this very subject in relation to the dead, when he declared, as you will find recorded in Revelation 20:12—And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
7 You will discover in this quotation that the books were opened; and another book was opened, which was the book of life; but the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works; consequently, the books spoken of must be the books which contained the record of their works, and refer to the records which are kept on the earth. And the book which was the book of life is the record which is kept in heaven; the principle agreeing precisely with the doctrine which is commanded you in the revelation contained in the letter which I wrote to you previous to my leaving my place—that in all your recordings it may be recorded in heaven.
This is really quite a profound observation by Joseph Smith. Modern Mormonism often teaches the gospel of works instead of the gospel of grace because the definition of the scriptural term “works” is often misunderstood.
Sometimes the word “works” refers to ones efforts to do good things and try really hard to keep the commandments and live a good life. In other uses, it simply means to obey the ordinances as an act of confirming belief in Christ and is atonement.
When the scriptures state that he who believeth and is baptized shall be saved, the term baptized is referring to the WORKS that are required to be saved.
16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. Mark 16:16
16 Therefore, blessed are they who humble themselves without being compelled to be humble; or rather, in other words, blessed is he that believeth in the word of God, and is baptized without stubbornness of heart, yea, without being brought to know the word, or even compelled to know, before they will believe. Alma 32:16
33 And whoso believeth in me, and is baptized, the same shall be saved; and they are they who shall inherit the kingdom of God. 3 Nephi 11:33-34
23 And he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned; Mormon 9:23
18 Therefore, repent all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me, and believe in my gospel, and be baptized in my name; for he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned; and signs shall follow them that believe in my name. Ether 4:18
9 And he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, and he that believeth not shall be damned. Doctrine and Covenants 68:94 Therefore, as I said unto mine apostles I say unto you again, that every soul who believeth on your words, and is baptized by water for the remission of sins, shall receive the Holy Ghost. Doctrine and Covenants 84:64
29 And he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, and he that believeth not, and is not baptized, shall be damned. Doctrine and Covenants 112:29
Following the “works” of entering into the waters of baptism to confirm ones faith, the Holy Spirit is received and other good works follow, but they are the result not the cause of becoming a new creature in Christ.
It is remarkable how different a person interprets passages in the Book of Mormon once one becomes a Biblical Christian who simply believes the Book of Mormon but views it through the lens of Biblical Christianity.
For instance, as a mainstream Mormon, I once interpreted the following passage of scripture to mean that if we work as hard as we possibly can to keep all of the commandments and live the gospel, God’s grace will pick up the slack.
23 For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.
I now realize that what is actually being conveyed in the above passage is the fact that no matter how much we do, it is 100% by the Grace of God that we are saved.
8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Ephesians 2:8-9
The Restoration of Priesthood Keys Requires
Certification and Record Keeping to be Valid
Continuing on, the above protocol and necessity of CERTIFICATION AND RECORD KEEPING probably seems obvious and unremarkable to those that grow up in the church and who are familiar with the recording of priesthood ordinances but I want to point something out to you that you may have never really pondered.
Let me begin by asking you this question.
If the administering of priesthood ordinances must be recorded and certified by witnesses, in order to be acceptable to heaven, wouldn’t it make sense that the restoration of the priesthood keys for doing those ordinances must also be certified and recorded by the mouth of two or three witnesses?
Of course it would.
The certification of the restoration of priesthood keys must be CERTIFED my two or three witnesses. The public record must provide a DATE and PLACE where the event took place along with any other pertinent HISTORY OF THE TRANSACTION.
Why am I pointing out the obvious?
Because this obvious fact never occurs to most people when it comes to evaluating the false claims of the modern church with regard to the myth they perpeturate about the restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood by Peter James and John.
In past posts I have documented the fact that the true restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood did not take place in 1829 by the visitation of Peter James and John as taught in Mormon tradition. Rather, it was restored by the voice of God out of heaven in June of 1831 at the Morley Farm.
Four of the most powerful testimonies of this fact are given by Joseph Smith, Lyman Wight, John Corrill and Parley P. Pratt
Here is the testimony of Joseph Smith-
“…the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood was manifested and conferred for the first time upon several of the Elders. It was clearly evident that the Lord gave us power in proportion to the work to be done, and strength according to the race set before us, and grace and help as our needs required.” History of The Church, 1:175-177
Here is the Testimony of Lyman Wight
On the 4th of June 1831, a conference was held at Kirtland, <Ohio> represented by all the above [named] branches; Joseph Smith our modern Prophet presided; and here I again saw the visible manifestations of the power of God as plain as could have been on the day of [Pentecost] and here for the first time I saw the Melchizedec priesthood introduced into the church of Jesus Christ as anciently;
whereunto I was ordained under the hands of Joseph Smith, and I then [ordained] Joseph and Sidney and sixteen others such as he chose unto the same priesthood. The spirit of God was made manifest to the heeling of the sick, cast<ing> out devils, speaking in unknown tongues, discerning of spirits, and prophesying  with mighty power, After the two days the conference broke up receiving the revelation which appointed 28 elders their Mission to Missouri
Here is the Testimony of John Corrill
… there was a revelation received, requiring the prophet to call the elders together, that they might receive an endowment. This was done, and the meeting took place some time in June.
About fifty elders met, which was about all the elders that then belonged to the church. The meeting was conducted by Smith. Some curious things took place. The same visionary and marvellous spirits spoken of before, got hold of some of the elders; it threw one from his seat to the floor; it bound another, so that for some time he could not use his limbs nor speak; and some other curious effects were experienced, but, by a mighty exertion, in the name of the Lord, it was exposed and shown to be from an evil source.
The Melchizedek priesthood was then for the first time introduced, and conferred on several of the elders. In this chiefly consisted the endowment—it being a new order—and bestowed authority. However, some doubting took place among the elders, and considerable conversation was held on the subject. The elders not fairly understanding the nature of the endowments, it took some time to reconcile all their feelings.
Here is the testimony of Parley P. Pratt
“On the sixth of June, 1831, a general conference was convened at Kirtland, consisting of all the Elders, far and near, who could be got together. In this conference much instruction was given by President Smith, who spake in great power, as he was moved by the Holy Ghost; and the spirit of power and of testimony rested down upon the Elders in a marvelous manner. Here also were some strange manifestations of false spirits, which were immediately rebuked
Several were then selected by revelation, through President Smith, and ordained to the High Priesthood after the order of the Son of God; which is after the order of Melchizedek.
This was the first occasion in which this priesthood had been revealed and conferred upon the Elders in this dispensation..”
In the past I have always documented this claim by simply documenting what took place at the special conference at the Morley Farm and providing the testimony of Joseph Smith, Lyman Wight and others. I have provided canonized scriptures and credible historical records to show that a CERTIFIED RECORD was made of the bestowal of the Melchizedek priesthood in June of 1831 at the Morley Farm.
However, in this post I want to demonstrate that the Melchizedek priesthood could not possibly have been restored through Peter James and John by virtue of the fact that there is no CERTIFIED RECORD of it containing a DATE, PLACE and pertinent details containing the HISTORY OF THE TRANSACTION.
Think about it.
We know for a fact that the Aaronic priesthood was restored because all of the elements pertaining to CERTIFICATION AND RECORDING OF THE HISTORICAL EVENTS INCLUDING TIME AND PLACE are contained in Joseph Smith’s personal history and canonized in section 13
An extract from Joseph Smith’s history recounting the ordination of the Prophet and Oliver Cowdery to the Aaronic Priesthood near Harmony, Pennsylvania, May 15, 1829. The ordination was done by the hands of an angel who announced himself as John, the same that is called John the Baptist in the New Testament.
1 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.
There you have a text book example of a proper certification and recording from the mouth or two or three witnesses, complete with date, place, and pertinent history pertaining to the transaction.
There is no confusion or guess work involved when it comes to the public record of that event as certified by two witnesses.
Have you ever wondered why there is not a similar RECORD and CERTIFICATION of the supposed restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood by Peter James and John?
It is because there was no such event!
Over the years Church scholars and apologists have tried to piece together different and conflicting comments that have been attributed to Oliver Cowdery and various people in trying to reconstruct when and where this elusive priesthood restoration took place.
In an article on the church website, the author makes the following remark
By examining scriptures and records of the time, however, we can put some pieces of the historical puzzle together to give us what may be a closer approximation of its elusive time sequence and background.
Four generations after the fact you are still trying to put the “historical puzzle” together about the “elusive time sequence and background” of when Peter James and John restored the Melchizedek Priesthood?
That does not sound to me like a certified record with a date, place and pertinent historical events was recorded and certified of this most important event.
Yes indeed, the restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood by Peter James and John is quite a historical puzzle with quite an elusive time sequence and historical background indeed.
As duly noted by critics of the church on the Mormonthink website;
Nobody in or out of the church knows the exact date of the restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood, and Oliver Cowdery was inconsistent in describing which heavenly being(s) had come to confer that authority.
The following observations are found on another website that is justifiably critical of the claims being made by the LDS church regarding the restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood by Peter James and John:
The account of the Melchizedek restoration is entirely missing. B.H. Roberts writes that “there is no definite account of the event in the history of the Prophet Joseph, or, for matter of that, in any of our annals…” (History of the Church, 1:40fn).
Palmer confirms that “no contemporary narrative exists…. the date, location, ordination prayer, and any other circumstances surrounding this experience are unknown” (An Insider’s View, 229).
Even Joseph Smith’s own family did not know about the restoration of the Melchizedek priesthood. Quinn writes, “Smith’s own mother made no reference to angelic restoration of authority in an 1831 letter she wrote to her brother about the new church” (Origins of Power, p.19).
Joseph Smith III, the son of the founder of Mormonism, admitted that “there is no historical evidence of such an event. Nor is there any evidence that Peter, James, and John were present…. It is not safe then to write historically that Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were ever ordained literally…” (Reorganized History of the Church 1:64-65).
One of the things that is revealed towards the end of section 128 is that if a priesthood ordinance (or bestowal) is not properly RECORDED AND CERTIFIED, it basically does not exist, as far as the corresponding records in heaven are concerned.
Interestingly Joseph Smith provides a bullet point listing of major revelatory events that have taken place in section 128 and in that listing, he notes the appearance of Peter James and John. And yet, his record of that event says nothing about the restoration of Melchizedek Priesthood. Rather, it only has Peter James and John declaring that they hold the keys of the dispensation of the fullness of times!
20 And again, what do we hear? Glad tidings from Cumorah! Moroni, an angel from heaven, declaring the fulfilment of the prophets—the book to be revealed. A voice of the Lord in the wilderness of Fayette, Seneca county, declaring the three witnesses to bear record of the book! The voice of Michael on the banks of the Susquehanna, detecting the devil when he appeared as an angel of light! The voice of Peter, James, and John in the wilderness between Harmony, Susquehanna county, and Colesville, Broome county, on the Susquehanna river, declaring themselves as possessing the keys of the kingdom, and of the dispensation of the fulness of times!
21 And again, the voice of God in the chamber of old Father Whitmer, in Fayette, Seneca county, and at sundry times, and in divers places through all the travels and tribulations of this Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints! And the voice of Michael, the archangel; the voice of Gabriel, and of Raphael, and of divers angels, from Michael or Adam down to the present time, all declaring their dispensation, their rights, their keys, their honors, their majesty and glory, and the power of their priesthood; giving line upon line, precept upon precept; here a little, and there a little; giving us consolation by holding forth that which is to come, confirming our hope!
How odd that Joseph would take that opportunity to declare the historic appearance of Peter James and John, and yet he only recalls them declaring that they hold the keys of the Kingdom and the dispensation of the fullness of times.
Because the Melchizedek Priesthood was not restored to the earth by Peter James and John.
One of the fascinating events in church history is the vision that took place in the holy of holies in the Kirtland Temple. In that vision, Christ, Moses, Elias and Elijah restored priesthood keys of the gathering of Israel. Clearly, Joseph and Oliver were commanded by God to not share this event with the saints at the time that it happened. Instead they secretly sealed up the account of the event in a church historical dairy.
The Prophet Daniel foretold about his event
24 Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.
Even though Joseph and Oliver were commanded to “seal up the vision” and the “prophecy” contained in that visitation, it appears as if the Lord wanted future generations to know about the event so that when it was discovered, a properly CERTIFIED RECORD would be available for future generations to read. It would also be recorded in the heavenly books.
According to section 128, the proper certification and recording of the ordinances of salvation (including bestowal of priesthood keys) is necessary in order to BIND or SEAL the RECORD into the heavenly RECORD by which people are to be judged.
8 Now, the nature of this ordinance consists in the power of the priesthood, by the revelation of Jesus Christ, wherein it is granted that whatsoever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Or, in other words, taking a different view of the translation, whatsoever you record on earth shall be recorded in heaven, and whatsoever you do not record on earth shall not be recorded in heaven…
9 It may seem to some to be a very bold doctrine that we talk of—a power which records or binds on earth and binds in heaven. Nevertheless, in all ages of the world, whenever the Lord has given a dispensation of the priesthood to any man by actual revelation, or any set of men, this power has always been given. Hence, whatsoever those men did in authority, in the name of the Lord, and did it truly and faithfully, and kept a proper and faithful record of the same, it became a law on earth and in heaven, and could not be annulled, according to the decrees of the great Jehovah. This is a faithful saying. Who can hear it?
It is astounding how much power there is in the written certification of records when done by God’s authorized servants within the mandated protocol that was ordained before the world was created.
Since this post has already gone to long, we shall continue parsing section 128 in conjunction with section 124 at a later time when I shall undertake to show that the ordinance of baptisms for the dead is possibly not just for those in spirit prison that died without a knowledge of the gospel. I am going to suggest the possibility that it may be the actual ordinance that brings about the RESURRECTION of each dead person.