Baptism and the Aaronic Priesthood


From Joseph Smith’s Own Account *
Go and be baptized (JS—H 1:70).

While translating the Book of Mormon from the gold plates, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, his scribe, read about baptism. They realized that there was no longer anyone upon the earth who had authority from God to perform baptisms.

On a certain day [Oliver Cowdery and I] went into the woods to pray and inquire of the Lord respecting baptism for the remission of sins, that we found mentioned in the translation of the plates. While we were thus … praying … , a messenger from heaven descended in a cloud of light, and having laid his hands upon us, he ordained us, saying:

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. …

He commanded us to go and be baptized, and gave us directions that I should baptize Oliver Cowdery, and that afterwards he should baptize me. …

I [then] laid my hands upon his head and ordained him to the Aaronic Priesthood, and afterwards he laid his hands on me and ordained me to the same Priesthood—for so we were commanded.

The messenger who visited us on this occasion and conferred this Priesthood upon us, said that his name was John, the same that is called John the Baptist in the New Testament, and that he acted under the direction of Peter, James and John. … It was on the fifteenth day of May, 1829, that we were ordained under the hand of this messenger, and baptized. …

No sooner had I baptized Oliver Cowdery, than the Holy Ghost fell upon him, and he stood up and prophesied many things which should shortly come to pass. And again, so soon as I had been baptized by him, … I prophesied concerning the rise of this Church, and many other things connected with the Church. …

Our minds being now enlightened, we began to have the scriptures laid open to our understandings. … In the meantime we were forced to keep secret the circumstances of having received the Priesthood and our having been baptized, owing to a spirit of persecution which had already manifested itself in the neighborhood.

We had been threatened with being mobbed, from time to time … by professors of religion. And their intentions of mobbing us were only counteracted by the influence of my wife’s father’s family (under Divine providence), who … were willing that I should be allowed to continue the work of translation without interruption; and therefore offered and promised us protection.

[illustration] Illustrated by Paul Mann