The Aaronic Priesthood Restored by John the Baptist

Ordination of Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, by Joseph Lewis
Ordination of Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery,
By Joseph Lewis

This painting by Joseph Lewis depicts the ordination of Joseph Smith, Jr., and Oliver Cowdery to the Aaronic Priesthood. They were ordained by the heavenly messenger, John the Baptist, upon the bank of the Susquehanna River, May 15, 1829.

Following are the words of Joseph Smith as he tells of this event.

We still continued the work of translation [of the Book of Mormon], when in the ensuing month, (May, 1829) we on a certain day went into the woods to pray and inquire of the Lord respecting baptism for the remission of sins, as we found mentioned in the translation of the plates.

While we were thus employed, praying and calling upon the Lord, a messenger from heaven descended in a cloud of light, and having laid his hands upon us, he ordained us, saying unto us, "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 said this Aaronic Priesthood had not the power of laying on of hands, for the gift of the Holy Ghost, but that this should be conferred on us hereafter; and he commanded us to go and be baptized, and gave us directions that I should baptize Oliver Cowdery, and afterwards that he should baptize me.

Accordingly we went and were baptized, I baptized him first, and afterwards he baptized me; after which I 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, who held the keys of the priesthood of Melchisedec; which priesthood he said should in due time be conferred on us—and that I should be called the first elder, and he the second. It was on the fifteenth day of May, eighteen hundred and twenty-nine, that we were baptized and ordained under the hand of the messenger.

Immediately upon our coming up out of the water, after we had been baptized, we experienced great and glorious blessings from our heavenly Father. 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, as soon as I had been baptized by him, I also had the spirit of prophecy; when standing up, I prophesied concerning the rise of the Church, and many other things connected with the Church and this generation of the children of men. We were filled with the Holy Ghost and rejoiced in the God of our salvation. (Joseph Smith Tells His Own Story, pp. 25–27)

Prints of the above painting are available in various sizes for purchase at the Restoration Bookstore or from our online store.

Joseph Smith Tells His Own Story is available for purchase at the Restoration Bookstore or from our online store.