Restoration Provides Additional Knowledge about Apostle Peter
Contributed By R. Scott Lloyd, Church News staff writer
“So it was Peter, president of the Church of Jesus Christ, seer, apostle, keeper of the keys, who returned to the earth to bestow on Joseph Smith the priesthood and the keys he had received under the hand of the Messiah.” —Steven C. Harper, Church History Library historian
As a result of the Restoration, Latter-day Saints “have knowledge about Peter that significantly expands what is known from the relatively sparse ancient sources,” said Steven C. Harper in his October 25 Sperry Symposium presentation titled “Peter and the Restored Priesthood.”
“For instance,” said Brother Harper, a historian at the Church History Library and former BYU professor of Church history and doctrine, “there is the well-known paronomasia, or play on words, in Matthew 16:18 regarding Peter’s name: ‘Thou art Peter,’ the Lord says there, ‘and upon this rock I will build my church.’”
Brother Harper said, “Petros, the Greek word that the King James translators rendered in English as Peter, means a small rock. The Apostle that we call Peter Jesus called something like Simon the stone. In the King James translation of John 1, recording Jesus’s first encounter with Peter, the Savior says to him, ‘Thou shalt be called Cephas,’ an Aramaic word meaning a stone.
“In his revision of the Bible, Joseph Smith added “seer,” so that the Joseph Smith Translation of John 1:42 has Jesus renaming Simon, saying, ‘Thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation a seer or stone.’
“Given the textual links between Jesus’s name for Peter, a seer stone, and revelation, we might consider that the wordplay is richer than the King James Translation suggests and that we should regard Peter as a seer, a recipient of revelations.”
Brother Harper said Joseph Smith received revelations that formally linked Peter’s role as seer and president of the high priesthood with the duty to preside over the whole Church, to be a seer, a revelator, a translator, and a prophet.
“So it was Peter, president of the Church of Jesus Christ, seer, apostle, keeper of the keys, who returned to the earth to bestow on Joseph Smith the priesthood and the keys he had received under the hand of the Messiah,” Brother Harper explained.
“The idea that Peter is alive, that he could appear in the Susquehanna River valley and bestow priesthood is a fruit of the Restoration,” he said. “For believers, the testimony of Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery is evidence of Peter’s historicity and of the Savior’s, for Peter appeared to them as a resurrected being in his capacity as an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Steven C. Harper delivers a Sperry Symposium lecture on Peter and the restored priesthood. Photo by R. Scott Lloyd.
In a depiction by Kenneth Riley, the chief Apostle Peter, along with James and John, confers the Melchizedek Priesthood upon Joseph Smith as Oliver Cowdery kneels nearby. Peter had received the keys of the priesthood on the Mount of Transfiguration during Christ’s mortal ministry.