I got an email some time back from a reader of this blog which I am providing below:

“Hi Watcher, I’ve been enjoying the podcasts you’ve produced with searcher and md. They have been enlightening to say the least.

As you frankly discuss the ‘lay of the land” regarding the current LDS church and it’s doctrine, the spirit of the discussion is neither offensive/combative and all seems quite reasonable. A tough feat considering the subject.

Anyways, I’ve come across something that may be related to the intercessory offering of Joseph Smith. You probably know about it, it’s the principal of the Semicha in Jewish tradition.

In the Hebrew Bible, semicha (literally “leaning”) refers to the priest’s placing of his hands before the offering of a korban (animal sacrifice) in theTemple in Jerusalem. This involved pressing firmly on the head of the sacrificial animal, thereby symbolically “transmitting” sins onto the animal or, in other interpretations, to transform the sacrifice into an offering acceptable to HaShem.”

More at:

You’ve discussed Joseph taking upon him the sins of polygamy and others and then being offered as a sacrifice to spare the saints. And he did so by acting out the sins himself – (as I understand it).

My question is, was there an event, such as a blessing from Brigham Young or someone else, where they placed their hands on Joseph’s (and possibly Hyrum’s head) prior to their departure to Carthage? Have you found any such act that may be a symbolic transfer of sins to the sacrifice that may be in accordance to the principal of the semicha?

Hope all is well,


This was my response:

“That is a great find XXXX.

I was not familiar with the concept of Semicha as described in Jewish tradition.

I found the following blurb in the wiki article you referenced particularly interesting as it appears to describe one of the two servants putting his sins that he had committed (because of the sins of Israel), upon the other servant:

Some rabbinical authorities,[who?] followed by some Church Fathers,[who?] interpreted “semikah” as meaning that the sacrificer, by laying his hands upon the animal, transferred his sins to it and imposed upon it the punishment which his conduct had merited (Sforno on Leviticus i. 5; Levi ben Gershon on Leviticus i. 4). Also important, here, should be the explicit teaching [Leviticus 16:21], “And Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions, all their sins. And he shall put them [their sins] on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who is in readiness.” 

I had not previously considered that the one servant was placing his own sins upon the head of the other servant….

If in fact the two servants are Joseph and Sidney and if in fact Sidney is the scapegoat servant, then it would have required a special blessing from Joseph upon the head of Sidney.

With that in mind, it is interesting that Joseph gave a blessing upon the head of Sidney in 1835, (presumably by the laying on of hands) at about the time of transition from the fulness of the Church of Christ to the Dispensation of the Gospel of Abraham. (It was not a common occurrence for Joseph to give blessings. Usually his father, or Sidney or someone else was giving blessings if my memory serves me right)

In the blessing, the following promise was given:

Thou shall receive an ordination not many days hence which shall surpass all human understanding; for thy Redeemer shall come down and stand before thee-thou shalt see his face and hear his voice and great shall be thy rejoicing.

We have no documentation of when that ordination took place and can only wonder what kind of ordination would surpass all human understanding.

It is interesting to note that Joseph seems to have fallen into transgression before Sidney, which also meets the sequence of events being described. First the primary servant sins, then places the sins on the secondary servant.

Your question about Hyrum and Joseph on the way to Carthage is also an interesting one as priesthood blessings are sometimes followed up with additional sequential confirmations. .

As the Patriarchal High Priest over Israel at the time, Hyrum would be the one to act in the role described in Leviticus 16 in placing his hands upon the head of the atonement offering….

Interesting stuff to ponder.

Thank you for bringing that to my attention.

Hope all is going well for your guys. We think of you whenever we visit ….”

scapegoat image


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