The Church is Organized by Commandment of God

The Organization of the Church, by Nancy Harlacher
The Organization of the Church,
By Nancy Harlacher

This painting depicts the historic meeting in the Whitmer farmhouse near Fayette, New York, April 6, 1830, in which the Church was officially organized according to the commandments of God by six young men.  Shown clockwise in the painting are: Joseph Smith Jr. (standing), Oliver Cowdery, Hyrum Smith, David Whitmer, Samuel H. Smith, and Peter Whitmer Jr.

Following are the words of Joseph Smith Jr. recalling the events related to the organization of the Church.

We now became anxious to have that promise realized to us, which the angel that conferred upon us the Aaronic Priesthood had given us, viz: that provided we continued faithful we should also have the Melchesidec priesthood, which holds the authority of the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.

We had for some time made this matter a subject of humble prayer, and at length we got together in the chamber of Mr. Whitmer's house in order more particularly to seek of the Lord what we now so earnestly desired: and here to our unspeakable satisfaction did we realize the truth of the Savior's promise; “Ask, and you shall receive, seek, and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you.” For we had not long been engaged in solemn and fervent prayer, when the word of the Lord came unto us in the chamber, commanding us that I should ordain Oliver Cowdery to be an elder in the church of Jesus Christ, and that he also should ordain me to the same office; and then to ordain others as it should be made known unto us, from time to time.

We were, however, commanded to defer this our ordination until such times as it should be practicable to have our brethren, who had been and who should be baptized, assembled together, when we must have their sanction to our thus proceeding to ordain each other; and have them decide by vote whether they were willing to accept us as spiritual teachers, or not; when also we were commanded to bless bread and break it with them; and to take wine, bless it, and drink it with them; afterward proceed to ordain each other according to commandment, then call out such men as the spirit should dictate, and ordain them; and then attend to the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, upon all those whom we had previously baptized; doing all things in the name of the Lord.

In this manner did the Lord continue to give us instructions from time to time concerning the duties which now devolved upon us. Among many other things of the kind, we obtained of Him the following by the spirit of prophecy and revelation; which not only gave us much information, but also pointed out to us the precise day upon which, according to His will and commandment, we should proceed to organize His Church once again, here upon the earth:

The rise of the church of Christ in these last days, being one thousand eight hundred and thirty years since the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the flesh, it being regularly organized and established agreeably to the laws of our country, by the will and commandments of God in the fourth month, and on the sixth day of the month which is called April; which commandments were given to Joseph Smith, Jr., who was called of God and ordained an apostle of Jesus Christ, to be the first elder of this church; and to Oliver Cowdery, who was also called of God an apostle of Jesus Christ, to be the second elder of this church, and ordained under his hand; and this according to the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, to whom be all glory both now and for ever. Amen. (Doctrine and Covenants 17:1)

Meantime, our translation [of the Book of Mormon] drawing to a close, we went to Palmyra, Wayne County, New York, secured the copyright and agreed with Mr. Egbert Grandin to print five thousand copies for the sum of three thousand dollars.

Whilst the Book of Mormon was in the hands of the printer, we still continued to bear testimony, and give information, as far as we had opportunity; and also made known to our brethren that we had received commandment to organize the church, and accordingly we met together for that purpose, at the house of the above mentioned Mr. Whitmer (being six in number) on Tuesday the sixth day of April, A. D. one thousand, eight hundred and thirty.

Having opened the meeting by solemn prayer to our heavenly Father, we proceeded (according to previous commandment) to call on our brethren to know whether they accepted us as their teachers in the things of the kingdom of God, and whether they were satisfied that we should proceed and be organized as a church according to said commandment which we had received. To these they consented by an unanimous vote.

I then laid my hands upon Oliver Cowdery and ordained him an elder of the “Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints,” after which he ordained me also to the office of an elder of said church. We then took bread, blessed it, and brake it with them; also wine, blessed it, and drank it with them.

We then laid our hands on each individual member of the church present that they might receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, and be confirmed members of the church of Christ. The Holy Ghost was poured out upon us to a very great degree; some prophesied, whilst we all praised the Lord and rejoiced exceedingly.

We now proceeded to call out and ordain some others of the brethren to different offices of the priesthood, according as the Spirit manifested unto us; and after a happy time spent in witnessing and feeling for ourselves the powers and the blessings of the Holy Ghost, through the grace of God bestowed upon us, we dismissed with the pleasing knowledge that we were now individually members of, and acknowledged of God, “The Church of Jesus Christ,” organized in accordance with commandments and revelations given by Him to ourselves in the last days, as well as according to the order of the Church as recorded in the New Testament. (Joseph Smith Tells His Own Story, pp. 34–38)

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

The Organization of the Church by Nancy Harlacher is is available for purchase at the Restoration Bookstore or from our online store.