Power from on High
by Gregory A. Prince

Chapter 3.
Ordinances, 1829-30

[p.79]In a Latter-day Saint context whatever tradition has defined as a ordinance is one. Otherwise what Latter-day Saints accept as ordinances defies simple definition. For instance, an ordinance may be any act which, by scriptural mandate, is assigned to a priesthood office. Or it may be any act performed by a priesthood officer which involves the laying on of hands in one form or another—that is, one which involves physical contact between the officiator and recipient. Or it may be any act performed exclusively by a priesthood officer. Or it may be any act performed by a priesthood officer which derives from a biblical precedent.

The revelation outlining the function of early LDS priesthood offices1 lists as duties of elder and priest: baptism, ordination, and administration of the sacrament, all of which are recognized as ordinances. The other duties of these offices, including preaching, teaching, expounding, exhorting, visiting the houses of members, and taking the lead of meetings, are not so recognized. Conversely, several ordinances were never scripturally assigned to any priesthood office. And although many common ordinances such as baptism, confirmation, ordination, patriarchal, and other blessings involve physical [p.80]contact, this is not the case for administration of the Lord’s Supper, some forms of administering to the sick (particularly prior to 1836), casting out evil spirits, cursing, marriage, raising the dead, and some forms of sealing (such as the early practice of “sealing” entire congregations up to eternal life). Frequently women, who do not hold priesthood office, have administered to the sick, and they regularly perform washings and anointings in the temple. Similarly, marriage performed by a minister of another faith or by a civil officer is recognized as valid. And biblical precedents such as preaching, which was considered an “ordinance” by other 1830s American churches2 and which in the Latter-day Saint tradition were initially restricted to priesthood officers, have never been considered to be ordinances.

Therefore one returns to the initial definition of an ordinance as being something which church members recognize as such. While no comprehensive list was made during Joseph Smith’s lifetime, the following fits this popular definition of ordinances:

Ordinance                                                                               Year First Practiced3
Ordination                                                                              1829
Baptism                                                                                   1829
Confirmation                                                                          1829
The Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper                                 1829
Blessing Children                                                                  1830
Administering to the Sick                                                    1830
Cursing                                                                                    1830
Casting out Evil Spirits                                                         1830
Endowment                                                                            1831
Raising the Dead                                                                    1831
Blessing                                                                                    1831
Sealing                                                                                      1831
Washing Feet                                                                           1833
Patriarchal Blessing                                                               1834
Marriage                                                                                   1835
Washing and Anointing                                                        1836
Second Anointing                                                                   1843


The first ordinance identified in the Restoration was the ordination of Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery by the angel. Cowdery later reported: “[Smith] was ordained by the angel John, unto the lesser or Aaronic priesthood, in company with myself, in the town of Harmony, Susquehannah county, Pennsylvania, on Friday the 15th day of May, 1829: after which we repaired to the water, even to the Susquehannah river, and were baptized: he first ministering unto me, and after, I to him.” 4

Shortly thereafter Smith dictated the text of the Book of Moroni with the prescribed prayer for ordination of priests and teachers: “After they had prayed unto the Father in the name of Christ, they laid their hands upon them, and said: In the name of Jesus Christ I ordain you to be a priest, (or, if he be a teacher) I ordain you to be a teacher, to preach repentance and remission of sins through Jesus Christ, by the endurance of faith on his name to the end. Amen.”5 This simple ordination prayer was repeated without change in an unpublished 1829 revelation6 and served as an acceptable, though not mandatory, form through the remainder of the nineteenth century.7

The only significant change in ordination protocol during Smith’s ministry occurred in January 1832 when a conference ruled that no officers were to be ordained without the consent of the congregation.8 Church Historian John Corrill later explained: “For [p.82]some time after the commencement of the church an elder might ordain an elder, priest, teacher, or deacon, when and where he thought proper, but, after Stakes were planted, and the Church became organized, they established a rule that none should be ordained without consent of the church or branch that he belonged to.”9

A source of confusion is the frequency with which the word “ordination” was used to refer to actions other than designation of a priesthood office. For example, a revelation to Emma Smith, dated July 1830, promised her a form of authority and specified that the authority was to be conferred to her by Joseph Smith in the same manner used to ordain church officers, that is, by the laying on of hands: “And thou shalt be ordained under his hand to expound scriptures, and to exhort the church, according as it shall be given thee by my Spirit” (BC XXVI:4).

Numerous other examples exist which employ the verb “ordain” in a manner foreign to today’s usage. For example, an 1830 revelation proclaimed that men who had been ordained to the office of elder and who desired to serve on proselyting missions “shall be ordained and sent forth to preach” (BC XXXVIII:3, Dec. 1830). A June 1831 revelation mandated that William W. Phelps “be ordained to assist my servant Oliver [Cowdery] to do the work of printing, and of selecting, and writing books for schools, in this church” (BC LVII:5). In March 1833 Ezra Thayre and Joseph Coe “were ordained under the hands of Sidney Rigdon” to purchase farms for the church10 An 1834 revelation directed the establishment of a treasury and stated “ye shall appoint one among you to keep the treasure, and he shall be ordained unto this blessing” (DC, 1835 XCVIII:11, 23 Apr. 1834). As late as 1842, with the formation of the Female Relief Society of Nauvoo, Emma [p.83]Smith was “ordained” president of the society by Joseph Smith, with Sarah M. Cleveland and Elizabeth Ann Whitney “ordained” as her counselors by Apostle John Taylor.11

The problem was not one of understanding but of syntax. There is no evidence that church members had trouble distinguishing between ordination to offices and to duties outside the priesthood umbrella. It was the nature of the calling rather than the terminology and procedure employed in commissioning the recipient which distinguished the two. After Smith’s death there was a gradual move towards more definitive terminology, and today Latter-day Saints restrict use of the verb “ordain” to the nine recognized priesthood offices, while using the related term “set apart” to refer to commissions to all other callings and responsibilities. During Smith’s lifetime such a distinction was not made.


The first ordinance performed by Joseph Smith was baptism. Although the foundational document of the Restoration, the Book of Mormon, speaks only of baptism for remission of sins upon entry into the church, Smith eventually introduced three other types. In 1840, after several years of doctrinal development, he declared that salvation for those who died without baptism could be effected by the ordinance of baptism performed in their behalf by a living descendant. One year later rebaptism for a renewed remission of sins and baptism for physical healing were introduced.

Coincident with the arrival of Oliver Cowdery in April 1829 and the resumption of dictation, Smith’s attention was directed to several Book of Mormon passages regarding baptism, the most intriguing of which described events at the “waters of Mormon” (BM, LDS, Mosiah 18:10-17). Alma took Helam into the water but before baptizing him acknowledged his lack of proper authority by saying, “O Lord, pour out thy Spirit upon thy servant, that he may do this work with holiness of heart” (v. 12). Thereupon “the Spirit of the Lord was upon him” (v. 13), and after pronouncing a prayer different from that used later in the Book of Mormon, he baptized [p.84]both Helam and himself (v. 14) by submerging themselves simultaneously in the water.12

This incident provided two parallels with the manner of baptism practiced by Smith, the requirement of divine authorization and the mode of baptism by immersion. By contrast, Alma’s authorization came by the Spirit of the Lord, while Smith and Cowdery recorded that an angel had laid hands on them.13 Similarly, Alma baptized himself, whereas Smith and Cowdery baptized each other. There is no record of Smith or any other contemporary church member commenting on the differences.

The second key passage from the Book of Mormon describes the interaction of the resurrected Christ with his twelve disciples (BM, LDS, 3 Ne. 11:21-28). In this, as in the case of Alma, hands-on ordination is not described. Rather the Lord gave Nephi verbal authorization to baptize (v. 21). The baptismal prayer given in this passage (v. 25) was used in the church from 182914 until at least 1833 (BC XXIV:53), after which the first phrase was changed from “Having authority given me of Jesus Christ …” to “Having been commissioned of Jesus Christ … ” (DC, 1835 II:22). In October 1834 Oliver Cowdery wrote of his baptism, “the voice of the Redeemer spake peace to us, while the vail was parted and the angel of God came down clothed with glory… . We heard the voice of Jesus.”15 It thus appears reasonable that the baptismal prayer would invoke the name of the Savior rather than that of the angel.

The final book in the Book of Mormon contains Mormon’s epistle to his son, Moroni, on the subject of infant baptism (BM, LDS, Moro. 8:4-24). Because of this passage, baptism of infants was never an issue in the Restoration.16 Its very presence in the Book of Mormon, [p.85]however, is puzzling, because it appears in isolation, with no other references in the rest of the book. One may only ponder the possible relationship between this passage and the death, at birth, of Joseph and Emma Smith’s firstborn child in 1828, one year before this passage was translated.

On the same day Smith and Cowdery baptized each other they also baptized Smith’s younger brother, Samuel.17 The following month David Whitmer was baptized.18 By August these men began to preach and baptized about 80 members prior to the formal organization of the church the following April.19 They taught that they were “the only persons on earth who are qualified to administer in his name” and that those refusing their baptism “must be forever miserable.”20

With the exception of the minor word change, the mode of baptism has not changed since the beginning of the Restoration. Minor procedural questions were answered in 1831 when it was declared by revelation that baptism was not required until the age of eight years,21 and in 1840 when it was decided that, although immersion was the only acceptable form of baptism, a good faith effort on the part of the baptist, which inadvertently resulted in part of the body not being totally immersed, was nonetheless acceptable in the eyes of God.22

Two examples of “baptism in extremis” bear note, the first [p.86]intentional, the second accidental. In May 1841, while Andrew Henry and a “Brother Holden” were preaching in southern Illinois, a young man was sharply rebuked for his continual outbursts. The following morning the matter was resolved by water:

They said as he was under conviction he must be baptised but as the morning was rather cold he was unwilling to go into the water, but as they were going to compel him he thought it best to submit quietly so they went off and plunged him into the mill pond which was near at hand and kept him under longer than is customary with those that baptise for the remission of sin but as it was for bad behaviur they thought he must stay under a little longer, and to use the administrators own words he kept him under until the bubles began to rise. but as they had no authority to lay on hands they would not administer that ordinance so they let him go with the admonition to behave better next time he came to meeting.23

A more serious incident occurred three years later in the British Isles. In January 1844 elders Jonathan Pugmire and Thomas Cartwright were arrested and charged with manslaughter because of the accidental drowning of a convert in baptism. Because the prosecution failed to produce witnesses at the trial, the two elders were acquitted on technical grounds. An editorial in the church newspaper, while rejoicing at their acquittal, added a somber note of caution:

It is with feelings of no ordinary kind, that we address you on the present occasion, relative to the administration of the ordinance of baptism. Whereas, two fatal accidents have lately occurred, in connexion with this ordinance, one at Crewe, in Cheshire, and the other near to Sheffield, whereby two individuals have been drowned. We, therefore, strenuously urge upon the attention of the elders and priests of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, that they use every precaution in attending to the all-important ordinance of baptism for the remission of sins, and not be over anxious, so as to endanger themselves or the candidate.24

The 1832 revelation which first delineated the Latter-day Saint belief in a multi-tiered heaven made it clear that only those who had been baptized could inherit the highest tier, the Celestial Kingdom. Otherwise righteous people “who died without Law” could rise no [p.87]higher than the Terrestrial Kingdom.25 That this doctrine remained fixed in the minds of the Saints was shown dramatically in Smith’s vision of the Celestial Kingdom four years later.26 In that vision he saw his deceased brother, Alvin, in the Celestial Kingdom, in spite of his having died prior to the Restoration and hence, without baptism. According to Smith’s previous understanding, Alvin should have been in the Terrestrial Kingdom. He recorded that he

marvled how it was that he [Alvin] had obtained an inheritance in that Kingdom, seeing that he had departed this life, before the Lord had set his hand to gather Israel the second time and had not been baptised for the remission of sins—Thus came the voice of the Lord unto me saying all who have died with[out] a knowledge of this gospel, who would have received it, if they had been permited to tarry, shall be heirs of the celestial Kingdom of God—also all that shall die henseforth, without a knowledge of it, who would have received it, with all their hearts, shall be heirs of that Kingdom.27

Although Latter-day Saints today would offer this vision as the beginning of the doctrine of baptism for the dead, such was not the case. For example, a lengthy article the following year in the church periodical stated that the salvation of the dead would be effected by their acceptance of the gospel which would be preached to them in the afterlife, citing 1 Peter 4:6 as justification for this doctrine: “For, for this cause was the gospel preached to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.”28 That their salvation was contingent upon belief and not baptism was further clarified in 1840 by Apostle Parley P. Pratt. Writing in the church newspaper in England, he stated:

Q.—Was not the thief on the cross saved without baptism?

A.—If he was, it was because he had no opportunity to obey; and, therefore, was not saved through a Gospel ministration, but was [p.88]included in the same mercy as the heathens, who have never had the offer of the Gospel, and therefore, are under no condemnation for not obeying it.29

Two months later, in the course of delivering a funeral sermon in Nauvoo, Smith introduced a new doctrine to the church. Citing Paul’s isolated reference to those who were “baptized for the dead,” a scripture with which Smith had long been familiar but never previously cited,30 he went on to say that church members could now perform this ordinance in behalf of their deceased kin.31

The following month, as Joseph Smith, Sr., lay on his deathbed, Joseph Jr. informed his father that “it was then the privilege of the Saints to be baptized for the dead.” His father requested that Joseph Jr. immediately be baptized for Alvin. He died later that same day.32

Initially, the rules governing baptism for the dead were liberal. Proxies could be baptized for deceased kin of either sex33 provided they believed that the deceased “would have embraced the gospel if they had been priviledged with hearing it.”34 Although most baptisms [p.89]were initially performed in the Mississippi River adjacent to Nauvoo, some were conducted in Ohio35 and Iowa.36 Having received baptism and confirmation through proxies, and accepting Jesus’ gospel in the spirit world, the dead could “be blessed with a part in the first resurrection, and be a partaker and an inheritor of a celestial glory,” with no other ordinances necessarily being performed in their behalf.37

As time went on the rules changed. Coincident with the construction of the Nauvoo temple came a requirement that subsequent baptisms for the dead be performed in the temple font.38 The necessity of a recorder was stated in 1842,39 for ‘whatsoever you do not record on earth shall not be recorded in heaven.’40 Though initially only baptism and confirmation were required, in January 1844 Smith declared that ‘all the ordinances, Baptisms, confirmations, washings anointings ordinations & sealing’—that is, all ordinances required for the living–were now required for the dead.41

While the mode of baptism described in the Bible and the Book of Mormon enabled entry into the church as well as the cleansing of one” form s sins, a new ordinance served only latter purpose: “April 11th 1841. Joseph and Sidney each other their sins as this order then instituted in church. According on 27th April I was baptized for the remission of my sins.”42 Although it is not known what precipitated their action, Smith [p.90]and Rigdon thereby began a practice which lasted throughout the remainder of the nineteenth century and periodically included most of the church membership. Participation in rebaptism was not considered negatively, as an admission of grievous sin. Rather, it was seen in a positive sense, as a sign of faithfulness and recommitment, as indicated by Apostle Wilford Woodruff:

After the meeting closed the congregation again assembled upon the bank of the river & Joseph the seer went into the river & Baptized all that Came unto him & I considered it my privilege to be Baptized for the remission of my sins for I had not been since I first Joined the Church in 1833. I was then Baptized under the hands of Elder Zerah Pulsipher. Therefore I went forth into the river & was Baptized under the hands of JOSEPH THE SEER.43

Although rebaptism generally was practiced as a stand-alone ordinance, it was occasionally combined with baptism for the dead: “Brothers [Wilford] Woodruff and [Charles C.] Rich baptized about 100 for the remission of sins and for their dead.”44 The popularity of the ordinance is described in an 1843 letter written from Nauvoo: “Nearly All the Church have been Baptised again, for the Remission of their sins, since they joined the Church; I have also, by the hands of Br. Joseph, (as he himself has been.) & I would advise Jane[,] and you[,] Mary, to attend to it as soon as you can have the opportunity of an Elder or Priest of the Church to Administer.”45

The final development in baptism theology and practice, baptism for the restoration of health, appears to have relied on both Old and New Testament precedents. In the former case, Naaman, a leper, was instructed by Elisha to “go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean” (2 Kgs. 5:10-14). Although refusing the directive at first, Naaman eventually complied, [p.91]”and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.”46 In the New Testament case, the waters of Bethesda were famed for their curative powers: “For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had” (John 5:1-4).

While formal introduction of this new ordinance followed completion of the baptismal font in the basement of the Nauvoo temple, two earlier unexpected instances may have been instructive to Smith. The first, in 1832, involved the baptism of his uncle, John Smith:

My father had been for several years very feeble in health, and, for about six months previous to his baptism, had not been able to visit his barn, and was pronounced by physicians in the last stage of consumption. His neighbors all believed that baptism would kill him. I [George A. Smith] cut the ice in the creek, and broke a road for forty rods through the crust on two feet of snow; the day was very cold; the neighbors looked on with astonishment, expecting to see him die in the water, but his health continued improving from that moment.47

A similar episode occurred seven years late, when Hyrum Smith baptized John Rigdon, son of Sidney Rigdon.48

The baptismal font was dedicated in November 1841. One month earlier, in anticipation of the event, the Quorum of the Twelve published an epistle stating that the font would serve not only for baptisms for the dead but also as “a place, over which the heavenly messengers may watch and trouble the waters as in days of old, so that when the sick are put therein they shall be made whole.”49 Two weeks later, when the font was first used for baptisms, Wilford Woodruff delineated the types of baptism to be performed therein: “I then met the Twelve at B. Youngs untill 4 o-clock at which time we repaired to the Baptismal Font in the Temple for the purpose of Baptizing for the dead, for the remission [p.92]of Sins & for healing.”50 Another epistle by the Twelve, published the following month, spoke not only of the practice but also of its efficacy, stating that “several have already attended to this ordinance by which the sick have been made whole.”51 Although Smith stated that baptism “for the healing of the body must be in the font,” there were occasional exceptions, as when his wife, Emma, was baptized in the river52 and when baptisms for health were performed in Philadelphia.53 Although one baptism for health was generally considered sufficient, occasionally the ordinance was performed repeatedly.

By the end of 1841 four types of baptism were being practiced in the church. Smith stated in April 1842 that “baptism for the dead, and for the healing of the body must be in the font, those coming into the church and those rebaptized may be done in the river.”54 Of these, three had scriptural precedent, while rebaptism for sins was strictly a Latter-day Saint innovation. Although the latter continued throughout the nineteenth century, and baptism for health lasted into the 1920s, only baptism for entry into the church and for the dead are today sanctioned by the Utah church.


The gift of the Holy Ghost is described in the New Testament and the Book of Mormon, and in both cases two forms of bestowal are described. During Jesus’ ministry he promised his disciples the gift but stated that they would not receive it until he was gone. On the Day of Pentecost the promise was fulfilled—not through hands-on conferral but by “cloven tongues like as of fire” (Acts 2:3). Later the disciples conferred the gift by the laying on of hands.

In the Book of Mormon there is only one reference to the laying on of hands: “The words of Christ, which he spake unto his disciples, the twelve whom he had chosen, as he laid his hands upon [p.93] them— … [and said] ye shall have power that to him upon whom ye shall lay your hands, ye shall give the Holy Ghost… . and on as many as they laid their hands, fell the Holy Ghost” (BM, LDS, Moro. 2:1-3). In other Book of Mormon instances the Holy Ghost was conferred without a human intermediary, similar to the Day of Pentecost. The Lamanites, for example, “were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not” (BM, LDS, 3 Ne. 9:20). On another occasion, “when they were all baptized and had come up out of the water, the Holy Ghost did fall upon them” (19:13).

It appears that Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery received the gift of the Holy Ghost in the same way. Smith recorded that “no sooner had I baptized Oliver Cowdery than the Holy Ghost fell upon him.”55 Once the church was organized, confirmation was by the laying on of hands, and, aside from the special case of Smith and Cowdery,56 there is no record of members receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost by other means.57

No confirmation prayer is contained in the Book of Mormon or in Latter-day Saint revelations. Two early sources suggest that the prayer was generally brief and that, like the baptismal and sacramental prayers which were prescribed by revelation, the authority of the officiator was inferred. Ezra Booth, an elder and participant in the June 1831 general conference, quoted a form of the prayer, “In the name of Jesus Christ, receive ye the the Holy Ghost.”58 A year later Heber C. Kimball wrote:

Brother Ezra Landon preached in Avon and Genesee, baptized eighteen or twenty, and being afraid to confirm them and promise them the Holy Ghost, he requested me to confirm them, which I did according to the best of my knowledge, pronouncing only a few words on the head of each one, and invariably saying, “recieve ye the Holy Ghost in the name of Jesus Christ.” Immediately the Holy Ghost fell upon them and several commenced speaking in tongues before they arose from their knees.59

There is evidence that all four types of baptism were accompanied by confirmation, although the forms of the prayers are not recorded. In the case of baptism for the dead, confirmation was performed concomitantly with baptism, as shown by the record of the first baptisms performed in the temple font: “At 4 p.m., brothers [Heber C.] Kimball, [John] Taylor and I baptized about forty persons in the font, for the dead; brothers [Willard] Richards, [Wilford] Woodruff and George A. Smith confirming.”60 After being rebaptized for the remission of sins in 1842, Wilford Woodruff wrote that “we then again repaired to the place of meeting near the Temple & Elder [John] Taylor & meself was confirmed by the laying on of hands.”61 Confirmation following baptism for health was much less common.62

[p.95]The Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper

The Book of Mormon provided the model for Latter-day Saint observance of the Eucharist.63 In introducing the ordinance to the Nephites, the resurrected Christ blessed bread and wine, gave it to his disciples, who ate and drank until they “were filled,” and said that one of them would be ordained to perpetuate the ordinance “unto all those who shall believe and be baptized in my name” (BM, LDS, 3 Ne. 18:1-5). The prophet Moroni later echoed the admonition of Paul by warning “that ye partake not of the sacrament of Christ unworthily” (BM, LDS, Morm. 9:29; cf. 1 Cor. 11:27-29) and prescribed the prayers for blessing the bread and wine which are still used within the Latter-day Saint tradition (BM, LDS, Moro. 4:3, 5:2). Moroni stipulated that the officiator and the church members kneel together for the blessings (4:2) and recorded that “they did meet together oft to partake of bread and wine” (6:6).

In one of the earliest known revelations, Oliver Cowdery was given similar instructions, including the texts of the prayers over the bread and wine (identical to those in the Book of Mormon), instructions that the officiator (a priest or elder) was to “kneel with the Church,” and an admonition that “the Church shall oft partake of bread & wine.”64 Although no major changes occurred in this ordinance during Joseph Smith’s lifetime, several aspects of the ordinance were discussed, clarified, and in some cases changed.

The earliest change concerned the substances to be consumed. While the Book of Mormon and the 1829 “Articles of the Church” specified bread and wine, an 1830 revelation stated that “it matters not what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink, when ye shall partake of the sacrament.”65 The same revelation, reflecting suspicions about those [p.96]not sympathetic to their cause, warned: “ye shall not purchase wine, neither strong drink, of your enemies.” While this revelation justifies current Latter-day Saint use of water instead of wine, it is important to note that the proscription was against “your enemies,” not wine. Furthermore, the Word of Wisdom, given three years later, which stated that “wine or strong drink” were “not good,” specifically endorsed the use of sacramental wine (DC, 1835 LXXX:1). Indeed, there is no known reference to a liquid other than wine being used for the sacrament during Smith’s lifetime. Later references demonstrate that wine remained the preferred substance, even after water began to be used:

Q. Are bread and wine always used in the Sacrament?

A. No, water is occasionally used, when wine made by the Church cannot be obtained.66

As late as 1884 the president of the St. George, Utah, Stake “advised such of the wards of the Stake as do not use wine in administering the sacrament to make arrangements to do so.”67 The counsel that “it matters not what ye shall … drink” led one missionary in the Society Islands to opt for a local product: “On the 5th of August [1844], I administered the sacrament. For wine I substituted cocoanut milk, that was a pure beverage, which never had come to the open air till we broke the nut for that purpose.”68

Another concern was who should officiate. The 1829 “Articles of the Church” had named elders and priests as officiators, only implying that teachers and deacons were not authorized. An 1831 revision of the same revelation clarified the matter, stating that “neither the teacher nor the deacon has the authority to … administer the sacrament.”69 The same revision emphasized the seriousness with which the ordinance was to be administered by stating: “The elders or priests are to have a sufficient time to expound all things concerning [p.97]this church of Christ to their understanding previous to their partaking of the sacrament.”70

Worthiness of the recipient, mandated both by the New Testament and the Book of Mormon, was taken seriously. An 1831 revelation, while forbidding the exclusion of transgressors from meetings, required that “if any have trespassed, let him not partake until he makes reconciliation” (BC XLIX:4-5). The worthiness of officiators also became a matter of concern. Some members refused to take the sacrament “because the Elders administering it did not observe the words of wisdom to obey them.”71

It is not clear how often the sacrament was administered. Although the Book of Mormon records that “they did meet together oft to partake of bread and wine” (BM, LDS, Moro. 6:6), and the 1829 “Articles of the Church” instructed that “the Church shall oft partake of bread & wine,” there is no record of the frequency with which the ordinance was observed. That it probably was not weekly is suggested by the records of one branch of the church, which resolved “to partake of the sacrament every second sabath.”72

Blessing Children

One of the most touching moments in Jesus’ New World ministry was when he blessed the children. The Book of Mormon records:

And it came to pass that he commanded that their little children should be brought.

So they brought their little children and set them down upon the ground round about him, and Jesus stood in the midst; and the multitude gave way till they had all been brought unto him.

… and he took their little children, one by one, and blessed them, and prayed unto the Father for them (3 Ne. 11:11, 12, 21).

An early revelation (and the only revelation to Joseph Smith which mentioned the subject) instructed: “Every member of this church of Christ having children are to bring them to the elders before the church [p.98]who are to lay hands upon them in the name of the Lord, and bless them in the name of Christ.”73 Aside from the requirement that the children be blessed “in the name of Christ,” no form of blessing was recorded. Inasmuch as “every member” was to have his or her children blessed, one may assume that this ordinance was commonly performed, although few records refer to it.

Reynolds Cahoon noted that one “Satuerday Evening [we] held a Met[ing] with the Br[e]th[ren] at Mr Reevs & Blest the Children in the name of the lord & sealed the Church unto eternal life.”74 On the other hand, Orson Pratt indicated that children could be blessed as part of a normal Sunday service: “Being the Sabbath we held a meeting in the forenoon also one in the afternoon, and Brother Lyman [Johnson] ordained Brother Horace Cowen, an elder, and laid hands upon the little children and blessed them in the name of the Lord, and administered the sacrament, and sealed up the Church unto eternal life.”75 And the minutes of a Missouri conference read, “The meeting adjourned for one hour—and again opened by David W. Patten—After which the bread and wine was administered, and 95 infants were brought forward and blessed.”76

Although parents were instructed to have their children blessed, this was not considered an ordinance necessary for one’s salvation. There was no requirement that those joining the church receive it.


Of all the miracles of Jesus, healing the sick was the most prominent. Similarly, the Book of Mormon records that the resurrected Christ “did heal them every one as they were brought forth unto him” (BM, LDS, 3 Ne. 17:9). From the early days of the Restoration, healing was an important ordinance for church members, as well as a source of considerable commentary by the non-Mormon press.

A revelation in July 1830 warned Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery against seeking after miracles yet allowed some exceptions, among them “healing the sick” (BC XXV:23). A revelation later the [p.99]same year went a step further, promising the elders the ability to heal: “I will show miracles, signs and wonders, unto all those who believe on my name. And whoso shall ask it in my name, in faith, they shall cast out devils; they shall heal the sick; they shall cause the blind to receive their sight, and the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak, and the lame to walk” (BC XXXVII:9-10, Dec. 1830).

From 1830 through Joseph Smith’s life numerous attempts were made at healing. John Corrill, the Church Historian, wrote in 1839: “The Mormons believe in, and constantly practice the laying on of hands and praying for the healing of the sick; sometimes they have been healed, sometimes partly healed, and sometimes not benefitted at all.”77 In the early years, when expectations were high, newspapers in New York and Ohio reported that Mormons “pretend to heal the sick and work miracles” and “say much about working miracles, and pretend to have that power.”78 Shortly before the June 1831 general conference, an Ohio newspaper reported that “in June they are all to meet, and hold a kind of jubilee in this new `land of promise,’ where they are to work divers miracles,”79 and shortly after the conference several Ohio papers stated that “they still persist in their power to work miracles. They say they have often seen them done—the sick are healed—the lame walk.”80 This wave of publicity soon subsided but was followed four years later by similar reports in anticipation of the endowment in the Kirtland House of the Lord: “They assure you, with the utmost confidence, that they shall soon be able to raise the dead, to heal the sick, the deaf, the dumb, and the blind, &c. Indeed, more than one assured me, that they had, themselves, by the laying on of their hands, restored the sick to health.”81

That many attempts were successful was attested to by a variety of people who either performed, received, or witnessed the healing ordinance. Church Historian John Whitmer wrote of a time in 1831 [p.100]when “some were sick of various diseases, and were healed by the power which was in them through Jesus Christ.”82 A particularly dramatic case occurred just after the June 1831 general conference. Simeon Carter, who by virtue of ordination to the High Priesthood at that conference had been “endowed with great power from on high,” visited a woman who had fallen from a wagon on her way to church. “She was so badly bruised that she could not even move a toe, and her pain was intense… . [Carter] took her by the hand, saying, `I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to arise and walk.’ And she arose and walked from room to room.”83

The following month Jared Carter recorded that he and his missionary companion healed a woman who for six years had suffered from tuberculosis, stating that she “was healed, suddenly, and continued well, being freed from all afflictions.”84 Carter was particularly gifted and recorded other successful administrations during 1831-32.85 Other gifted healers were David Patten86 and Orson Pratt,87 both of whom later became apostles. Patten recorded healing a man with a three-year infirmity, a woman who had been ill for six months, another whose illness for eight years had caused her not to be able to “walk fifty steps at one tyme,” and other less dramatic instances. Pratt healed a woman who “had been sick about 12 weeks & vomited much blood” and another who “lay sicke of a disease with which she had been afflicted 5 or 6 years & she covenanted to obey the gospel if the Lord would heal her & I prayed for & laid my hands upon her in the name of Jesus & she began to recover & a few days after was baptized.88

More such accounts could be cited. However, not all attempts to heal were successful. A report in late 1830 stated that ‘these newly [p.101]commissioned disciples [Oliver Cowdrey, Peter Whitmer, Parley P. Pratt and Ziba Peterson] have totally failed thus far in their attempts to heal.89 Two months later a New York newspaper said that ‘they pretend to heal the sick and work miracles, and had made a number of unsuccessful attempts to do so.90 At the same time the Painesville Telegraph reported that Sidney Rigdon, a new convert, was critical of the missionaries” for inability to heal. “Mr. R. now blames Cowdery attempting to work miracles, and says it was not intended to be confirmed in that way.”91

A particularly embarrassing attempt to heal involved Smith and a young man, Warner Doty, who died in spite of all efforts and promises to the contrary. A local newspaper reported: “The Mormonites will probably contradict many of these statements, as they have many positive facts heretofore; but we have our information from a relative of the deceased, who was present during the last 18 hours of his life.”92 The incident caused enough of a stir that at least one eastern newspaper reported it.93

A revelation in December 1830 stated that it was necessary to act “in faith” to effect healing, implying that lack of faith would negate the attempt (BC XXXVII:10). Another revelation two months later acknowledged that in some cases even faith was not enough: “The elders of the church, two or more shall be called, and shall pray for, and lay their hands upon them in my name, and if they die, they shall die unto me … And again, it shall come to pass, that he that has faith in me to be healed, and is not appointed unto death, shall be healed.”94 A revelation the following month implied that some would be more successful than others, for “to others it is given to have faith to heal” (BC XLIX:18). Smith had told the Quorum of Twelve Apostles prior to the 1836 endowment, “that you will not have power, after the endowment to heal those that have not faith.”95 One month later, when Smith’s attempt to [p.102]heal a man was unsuccessful, he stated that the recipient’s “faith was not sufficient to effect a cure.”96 “Whenever any miracle fails,” wrote an outside observer, “they have a convenient salve at hand to account for the failure; that is the want of faith: a most impudent and efficious intruder, always ready at hand to nullify all their pious efforts, and to render them weak and feeble as other men.97

A crisis occurred when the Saints first moved to Illinois and many fell prey to malaria, including Smith. When reports reached him that the elders, in spite of blessing the sick, were not getting results, he rose, in spite from his sick bed and began to circulate among the Saints, apparently healing all whom he blessed. According to Joseph B. Noble, who was healed that day, “Joseph [Smith], at this time, rebuked the Elders for administering the form without the power. Said he, ‘Let the Elders either obtain the power of God to heal the sick, or let them cease to administer the form without the power.”98 Several months later Smith told the Saints how to get the requisite power: “If the Saints are sick or have sickness in their families, and the Elders do not prevail[,] every family should get power by fasting & prayer & anointing with oil & continue so to do [and] their sick shall be healed[;] this also is the voice of the Spirit.”99 The ordinance continued to be performed throughout Smith’s ministry and beyond, and although there were notable instances of miraculous healings, the observation of a non-Mormon in 1832 continued to hold true: “The people eat and drink, and some get drunk, suffer pain and disease, live and die like other people.”100

The most common form of the healing ordinance consisted of the officiator (and often one or more assistants) laying hands on the head of the afflicted and uttering a prayer. This form had ample New Testament precedent and was advocated in the Book of Mormon, which stated “they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover” (BM, [p.103]LDS, Morm. 9:24). An early Latter-day Saint revelation directed the elders to “lay their hands upon them in my name.”101 Dozens, perhaps hundreds, of accounts exist of healings via the laying on of hands between the years of 1830 and 1836. However, prior to November 1835 there is only one known account in which the recipient was anointed with oil.102 Neither the Book of Mormon nor any known Latter-day Saint revelation prescribes anointing the sick with oil.103

While it is not certain what led to anointing with oil, it is possible that the idea was reinforced in Smith’s mind during three days’ discussion with Robert Matthews, who stayed with Smith in Kirtland from 9-11 November 1835 disguised as “Joshua, the Jewish Minister.” Although Smith ultimately decided he was an imposter and expelled him from his home,104 it is likely that Matthews’s advocacy of anointing the sick with oil was appealing.105 Although the Epistle of James admonished the elders to pray over the sick, “anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord” (James 5:14), Smith had not referred to this passage prior to the visit of Matthews, and the fact that Smith began regularly anointing the sick with oil only two weeks after Matthews’s visit106 suggests the likelihood of his influence.

[p.104]The use of oil became commonplace though not mandatory. For example, nearly two years after oil was first used Willard Richards was healed by Apostles Heber C. Kimball and Orson Hyde who laid hands on him but did not use oil.107 One year later Samuel Tyler, seeing for the first time a sick man anointed with oil, wrote, “this is the first time I ever witness’d this ordinance.”108 By the time of Smith’s death, other variations had arisen, including taking the oil internally.109

Although hands were usually placed on the head of the afflicted, occasionally the officiator merely took the afflicted by the hand. In one instance Jared Carter “took him by the hand and commanded him in the name of Christ to walk and by the power of Christ he was enabled to walk.”110 Yet another variation consisted in placing hands on the afflicted portion of the body: “Elder G. Snow observing that I was in pain & without my speaking a word he laid his hand upon my legs & spake in an unknown tongue perhaps 15 or twenty words; he then said Amen. Is the pain gone, said he? At that moment I first perceived that I was entirely free of the pain.”111

Another form of healing involved no physical contact at all and was sometimes performed from a distance, similar to the example of Jesus112 and to the healing of Zeezrom described in the Book of Mormon (BM, LDS, Alma 15:8-11). In 1832, David Patten’s wife was sick with a fever. He wrote, “I perceiving that she had faith to be healed I went to her and sed in the name of Jesus Christ I [p.105]command you to arise and make your bed and she would and was made whole from that very hour.”113 Patten performed another healing in a similar fashion when a man whose son had been injured came to him requesting him “to go and heal his sores[.] I asked him if he believed that the Lord could heel him[.] he sed he did and I sed unto him in the name of Jesus Christ be it acording to your faith and he went his way.”114

An uncommon form involved the intercession of the afflicted in his own behalf. This possibility was suggested by an early revelation which stated that those who “have not faith to be healed, but believeth” should call for the Elders to lay on hands,115 implying that those with sufficient faith would not require intervention. A revelation the following month gave further endorsement to self-healing, stating that “to some it is given to have faith to be healed” (BC XLIX:18). Jared Carter wrote of several occasions when “I knew that the Lord had heard my prayer and relieved me.”116 Although this form of healing appears to have been uncommon, references to it attest to its validity. For example, First Presidency member Heber C. Kimball “touched upon the power which individuals possess, who have received the Priesthood, to bless themselves and to exercise faith for the removal of disease from their own tabernacles.”117

George Q. Cannon, of the First Presidency, later defended the self-administration of consecrated oil,118 and Apostle Orson F. Whitney, speaking in general conference, described an instance in which he had administered to himself:

There was some consecrated oil in the house, but my green inexperience had made me think that it would be improper to use it on myself, there being no other elder present. But suffering had opened my eyes, and my faith was strong, for I felt that the pain had no business there. That night I carefully washed off the liniment, applied the [p.106]holy oil, and rebuked the pain in the name of Jesus. The effect was instantaneous. I turned my arm over—the pain was gone; and I have never felt a vestige of it since.119

One form of healing reached to the Old Testament for a model, where Moses made a metal serpent on a pole and told the Israelites they could be healed by gazing upon it (Num. 21:9). This was cited twice in the Book of Mormon (BM, LDS, 1 Ne. 17:41; Alma 33:19-21). The first known LDS healing through the use of artifacts was in the patriarchal blessing of Lorenzo Snow: “Thy shadow shall restore the Sick; the diseased shall send to thee their aprons and handkershiefs and by thy touch their owners may be made whole.”120

Of particular value were relics which had been associated with Smith, both in life and in death. Kimball explained:

How much would you give for even a cane that Father Abraham had used? or a coat or ring that the Saviour had worn? The rough oak boxes in which the bodies of Joseph and Hyrum were brought from Carthage, were made into canes and other articles. I have a cane made from the plank of one of those boxes, so has brother Brigham and a great many others, and we prize them highly, and esteem them a great blessing. I want to carefully preserve my cane, and when I am done with it here, I shall hand it down to my heir, with instructions to him to do the same. And the day will come when there will be multitudes who will be healed through the instrumentality of those canes, and the devil cannot overcome those who have them, in consequence of their faith and confidence in the virtues connected with them… .

I have known [of] Joseph, hundreds of times, [to] send his handkerchief to the sick, and they have been healed.121

One of those handkerchiefs came into the possession of Wilford [p.107]Woodruff in 1839. He later used it to heal his daughter of “a vary Severe attack of inflamation on the lungs” by placing it on her stomach.122

As has been shown, some men appear to have possessed a gift for healing. While there is no record of such a gift having been formally bestowed upon these men, the patriarchal blessing later served as a conduit through which occasionally came the promise of healing powers. It is important to note that women as well as men were thus blessed. The promise to Elizabeth Ann Whitney was, “Behold, when thy husband is far from thee and thy little ones are afflicted thou shalt have power to prevail and they shall be healed.”123 Flora Jacobs was told, “Thou shalt have authority to lay thy hands on thy children when the Elders cannot be had and they shall recover[,] diseases shall stand rebuked.”124 Edna Rogers was similarly advised, “In the absence of thy husband thou must pray with thy family. When they are sick thou shall lay hands on them, and they shall recover. Sickness shall stand back.”125 And Louisa C. Jackson was assured that “Inasmuch as thou art faithful in the Covenant thou shalt have power to heal the sick in their own houses.”126


Not to be confused with profanity, the ordinance of cursing consisted of a formal act with the intent of causing an adverse effect [p.108]on an individual or group. The anticipated effect could be expected to occur either in this life or in the life to come. There are several biblical references to cursing (Matt. 10:14; Mark 6:11; Luke 9:5, 10:11; Acts 13:51), but none in the Book of Mormon. The earliest mention of it in the Restoration occurred in a revelation two months after the church was formally organized: “And in whatsoever place ye shall enter, and they receive you not, in my name, ye shall leave a cursing instead of a blessing, by casting off the dust of your feet against them as a testimony, and cleansing your feet by the wayside” (BC XXV:25, July 1830).

Although cursing is not considered an ordinance in the Latter-day Saint church today,127 it was important enough to be mentioned in eight published revelations:

And shake off the dust of thy feet against those who receive thee not, not in their presence, lest thou provoke them, but in secret, and wash thy feet as a testimony against them in the day of judgment (BC LXI:22, 8 Aug. 1831).

To them is power given, to seal both on earth and in heaven, the unbelieving and rebellious; yea, verily, to seal them up unto the day when the wrath of God shall be poured out upon the wicked (BC I:2, 1 Nov. 1831).

In whatsoever house ye enter, and they receive you not, ye shall depart speedily from that house, and shake off the dust of your feet as a testimony against them; and you shall be filled with joy and gladness and know this, that in the day of judgement you shall be judges of that house, and condemn them; and it shall be more tolerable for the heathen in the day of judgment, than for that house (DC, 1835 LXXXVII:3, 25 Jan. 1832).

He that receiveth you not, go away from him alone by yourselves, and cleanse your feet, even with water, pure water, whether in heat or in cold, and bear testimony of it unto your Father which is in heaven, and return not again unto that man. And in whatsoever village or city ye enter, do likewise. Nevertheless, search diligently and spare not; and wo unto that house, or that village, or city, that rejecteth you, or your words, or testimony concerning me (DC, 1835 IV:16, 22/23 Sept. 1832).

And whoso rejecteth you shall be rejected of my Father, and his [p.109]house; and you shall cleanse your feet in the secret places by the way for a testimony against them (DC, 1835 LXXXVIII:1, Aug. 1833).

And inasmuch as mine enemies come against you to drive you from my goodly land, … ye shall curse them. And whomsoever ye curse, I will curse, and ye shall avenge me of mine enemies.128

Whosoever he [Hyrum Smith] curses shall be cursed (DC, LDS, 124:93, 19 Jan. 1841).

Whatsoever you seal on earth shall be sealed in heaven; … and whomsoever you curse I will curse (DC, LDS, 132:46-47, 12 July 1843).

As early as 1831 missionaries began to practice this ordinance. The earliest known account reflects some impatience on the part of the missionaries, who cursed the entire city of Detroit within one day of their arrival:

We left the boat immediately and took lodging in a tavern; we breakfasted and dined freely with a merchant’s wife, a sister to Almira Mack. We four brethren [John Murdock, Hyrum Smith, Lyman Wight and John Corrill] labored from morning till noon endeavoring to get a chance to preach, but we were not successful. I was turned out of doors for calling on the woolcarder to repent. After dinner we took leave of the two ladies and the family with which we had dined and wiped our feet as a testimony against that city.129

Later that year two of these same missionaries, John Murdock and Hyrum Smith, pronounced a similar curse against the city of Chicago.130 Periodic cursings throughout the 1830s suggest that many individuals, communities, and cities were sentenced to a similar fate.131 [p.110]A letter from Joseph Smith and other church leaders in 1835 suggests that the ordinance was practiced too frequently, as it cautioned, “Pray for your enemies in the Church and curse not your foes without; for vengeance belongs to God.”132

In spite of the call for moderation, a zenith of cursing occurred less than a year later at the solemn assembly after the dedication of the Kirtland House of the Lord. One participant, William Harris, described the scene:

They [the Elders] began to prophesy, pronouncing blessings upon their friends, and curses upon their enemies. If I should be so unhappy as to go to the regions of the damned, I never expect to hear language more awful, or more becoming the infernal pit, than was uttered that night. The curses were pronounced principally upon the Jackson county mob in Missouri. After spending the night in alternate blessings and cursings, the meeting adjourned.133

That the Saints took this ordinance seriously and expected literal fulfillment is shown by an article in the church newspaper in 1840:

Question 6th.—Ought the Elders and Priests, when their testimony is rejected, to wash their feet, &c., and is there no hope of those against whom they wash their feet? An idea has gone out that we consider such sealed up for destruction. Is the washing of feet, in this way, anything more than a testimony that we are clear of their blood, when we bear testimony of it before God?

Answer.—Certainly … when the Elders and Priests have borne a faithful testimony to any city, town, village or person, and that testimony is rejected, and they have fulfilled the revelation [i.e., washing their feet], that city, town, village or person is in the hands of a right-[p.111]eous God, who will do with them according to his own pleasure; we are clear from their blood.134

In the later years of Smith’s ministry, as well as thereafter, cursing took on a more personal profile. In 1840, for example, the Kirtland Elders’ Quorum met to consider a complaint filed by Charles Thompson against Henry Moore, one of the charges being that Moore had “pronounc[ed] curses upon Elder Charles Thompson because he would not uphold him in the above abominations and wash[ed] his feet against me for the same reason.”135

Cursing continued after Smith’s death, with occasional noteworthy instances such as the action of the Salt Lake Stake presidency and high council in 1847: “Pres. John Smith sealed a curse upon the person or persons who killed [Albert] Carrington’s cow until they came forward and made restitution. The curse was sanctioned unanimously by the council.”136 Because the recipient of this curse was anonymous, it is unlikely that one can determine if it was fulfilled. Indeed, there is no indication that any of the prior curses bore the expected fruit—at least during the mortal life of the recipients. The single apparent exception occurred in 1853 in the West Indies: “The Elders cursed the Mayor, Hector Michell, whose duty it was to have protected them in their person and position as ministers, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Subsequently they learned that the mayor’s toes and fingers rotted off and that he soon died with the rot and scabs.”137

Casting out Evil Spirits

It was common knowledge among New Testament cultures that evil spirits could take possession of human bodies and thus cause disease. One of the signs of Jesus’ divinity was his ability to overrule the power of such spirits, causing them to leave the body and restore health (e.g., Matt. 8:16-17; Luke 4:31-37, 8:26- 39). The Book of [p.112]Mormon spoke of this ability, both during Jesus’ mortal ministry (BM, LDS, 1 Ne. 11:31; Mosiah 3:6) and his post-mortal ministry among the Nephites (BM, LDS, 3 Ne. 7:19), and recorded that similar power was promised to believers (BM, LDS, Morm. 9:24).

Shortly after the LDS church was organized, what is generally regarded as the first miracle performed in the new religion consisted of Joseph Smith casting a “devil” out of Newel Knight.138 A revelation warned against seeking miracles yet made several exceptions, including “casting out devils” (BC XXV:23-24, July 1830). Another revelation that December promised that “whoso shall ask in my name, in faith, they shall cast out devils.”139

The most dramatic and well-attested example occurred in June 1831 general conference. Levi Hancock described the scene:

Joseph [Smith] put his hands on Harvey Whitlock and ordained him to the high priesthood. He turned as black as Lyman was white. His fingers were set like claws. He went around the room and showed his hands and tried to speak, his eyes were in the shape of oval O’s. Hyrum Smith said, “Joseph, that is not of God.” Joseph said “do not speak against this.” “I will not believe,” said Hyrum, “unless you inquire of God and he ownes it.” Joseph bowed his head, and in a short time got up and commanded Satan to leave Harvey, laying his hands upon his head at the same time. At that very instant an old man said to weigh two hundred and fourteen pounds sitting in the window turned a complete summersault in the house and came his back across a bench and lay helpless. Joseph told Lyman to cast Satan out. He did. The man’s name was Leamon Coply, formally [sic] a Quaker. The evil spirit left him and as quick as lightening Harvey Green fell bound and screamed like a panther. Satan was cast out of him. But immediately entered someone else. This continued all day and the greater part of the night.140

Perhaps because of the notoriety of this event, the Saints’ power to [p.113]cast out devils was reported shortly thereafter in places as distant as Missouri and Vermont.141

In 1834 Lyman Wight taught that “all disease in this Church is of the Devil and that medicine administered to the sick is of the Devil, for the sick in the Church ought to live by faith.”142 Inasmuch as other church members disagreed, the matter was brought before the high council which ruled that “it is not lawful to teach the Church that all disease is of the devil.”143 After 1834 the casting out of evil spirits was not a prominent theme in the Restoration. Occasionally, individuals or groups promised power over evil spirits,144 but few reports of the use of such power exist.

Although it is not known if any women were promised power over evil spirits, Smith endorsed its potential use by women: “Prest. Smith continued the subject by adverting to the commission given to the ancient apostles `Go ye into all the world’ &c. No matter who believeth; these signs such as healing the sick, casting out devils &c. should follow all that believe whether male or female.”145 No accounts exist of women exercising such power during Smith’s lifetime.





1. See A Book of Commandments, for the Government of the Church of Christ, Organized According to Law, on the 6th of April, 1830 (Independence, MO: W. W. Phelps & Co., 1833), XXIV; hereafter cited in the text as BC; Doctrine and Covenants of The Church of the Latter Day Saints: Carefully Selected from the Revelations of God (Kirtland, OH: F. G. Williams & Co., 1835), II; hereafter cited in the text as DC, 1835.

2. Charles Buck, A Theological Dictionary Containing Definitions of All Religious Terms … (Philadelphia: Joseph J. Woodward, 1830), 418.

3. Some dates are estimates.

4. Oliver Cowdery, in “Patriarchal Blessing Book,” vol. 1, dated Sept., 1835, archives, Historical Department, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah (hereafter LDS archives). Cowdery’s use of the name of the angel and of the term Aaronic Priesthood are anachronisms, as is explained in chap. 1 of this book.

5. Moro. 3:2-3, in The Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1981) (hereafter cited in the text as BM, LDS). Since this pre-dated the concept of priesthood, it is not surprising that there is no reference to Aaronic Priesthood.

6. “Articles of the Church of Christ,” in Robert J. Woodford, “The Historical Development of the Doctrine and Covenants,” Ph.D. diss., Brigham Young University, 1974, 288.

7. For example, First Presidency member George Q. Cannon endorsed its use as late as 1896. See Juvenile Instructor 31 (1 Mar. 1896): 139.

8. Minutes of a conference in Independence, Missouri, 23-24 Jan. 1832, Oliver Cowdery, clerk, Library-Archives, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Independence, Missouri; also in Donald Q. Cannon and Lyndon W. Cook, eds., Far West Record: Minutes of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1830-1841 (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1983).

9. John Corrill, Brief History of the Church of Christ of Latter Day Saints … (St. Louis: Printed for the Author, 1839), chap. 13.

10. B. H. Roberts, ed., History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1971), 1:335 (hereafter cited as HC).

11. “A Record of the Organization, and Proceedings of The Female Relief Society of Nauvoo,” 17 Mar. 1842, LDS archives.

12. A second reference to self-baptism, though not as explicit, is found in BM, LDS, 3 Ne. 19:10-14. There is no known instance of self-baptism in the Restoration.

13. Apostle Joseph Fielding Smith wrote: “While it is the practice to lay on hands, there are many incidents recorded in the scriptures where divine authority has been bestowed by the divine edict to the prophets” (“Your Question,” Improvement Era 65 [June 1962]: 390-91).

14. “The Articles of the Church of Christ,” in Woodford.

15. Messenger and Advocate 1 (Oct. 1834): 15-16.

16. A revelation on priesthood,” dated September 1832, contained a reference to John the Baptist suggesting a form of infant baptism. The earliest known manuscript of the revelation, found in the Kirtland Revelations Book, says, “he was baptized while he was yet in the womb, and was ordained by the Angel of God at the time he was eight days old” (23). Later the words “the womb” were crossed out, and the words “his childhood” were written above. There is no known commentary explaining the change, and while it corrects an otherwise awkward reference to infant baptism in an ancient context, it creates an anachronism by having John ordained prior to his baptism.

17. Lucy Mack Smith, “Manuscript History,” 101, LDS archives.

18. David Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ (Richmond, MO: the Author, 1887), 32; also “A Visit to David Whitmer,” Juvenile Instructor 22 (15 Feb. 1887): 55.

19. Whitmer, 33.

20. Painesville Telegraph, 7 Dec. 1830.

21. Revelation of Nov. 1831, in Evening and Morning Star, Oct. 1832; also DC, 1835 XXII:4.

22. “Questions and Answers,” Millennial Star 1 (Aug. 1840): 94. The questions were submitted by Joseph Fielding to the editor, Apostle Parley P. Pratt.

23. Andrew Henry diary, May 1841, Huntington Library, San Marino, California.

24. Millennial Star 4 (Jan. 1844): 142-44.

25. Revelation of 16 Feb. 1832, in Kirtland Revelation Book, 1-10; also DC, 1835 XCI.

26. Scott H. Faulring, ed., An American Prophet’s Record: The Diaries and Journals of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Signature Books in association with Smith Research Associates, 1987), 118-20, 21 Jan. 1836. This vision was canonized by the Latter-day Saint church in 1978 and now comprises sec. 137 of the Doctrine and Covenants.

27. Ibid.

28. Messenger and Advocate 3 (Apr. 1837): 470-71.

29. Parley P. Pratt, “The Gospel Illustrated in Questions and Answers,” Millennial Star 1 (June 1840): 27.

30. Prior to the vision of 1832 defining the degrees of glory in the afterlife, Smith had revised 1 Corinthians 15 in the course of “retranslating” the Bible, making changes in verses 26, 27, and 31 but none in verse 29 which speaks of baptism for the dead.

31. Journal History, 15 Aug. 1840, LDS archives.

32. Lucy Mack Smith, Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet, and His Progenitors for Many Generations (Liverpool: Orson Pratt, 1853), 265-66.

33. For example, in 11 October 1840 William Huntington was baptized for his deceased mother (William Huntington diary, Huntington Library). This practice continued past Smith’s death, as Heber C. Kimball recorded that on 3 September 1844 his wife was baptized for “Samwell Ellis and wife Ellen Fitch” (Stanley B. Kimball, ed., On the Potter’s Wheel: The Diaries of Heber C. Kimball [Salt Lake City: Signature Books in association with Smith Research Associates, 1987), 84, 3 Sept. 1844. Only later was the requirement imposed that the proxy be of the same sex as the recipient. See Susa Young Gates, “Temples in Modern Times,” Young Woman’s Journal 19 (1908): 617.

34. Joseph Smith to the Twelve Apostles, 15 Dec. 1840, in Dean C. Jessee, ed., The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1984), 486.

35. Some were performed at a conference in Kirtland on 22 May 1841 and reported in Times and Seasons 2 (1 July 1841): 458-60.

36. HC, 4:382-83.

37. Times and Seasons 2 (1 May 1841): 397-99.

38. Joseph Smith discourse, 3 Oct. 1841, in Times and Seasons 2 (15 Oct. 1841): 577-78. An exception occurred in 1842 while the font was being renovated (HC, 5:350).

39. Joseph Smith discourse, 31 Aug. 1842, in Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, eds., The Words of Joseph Smith (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1980), 131.

40. Joseph Smith epistle, “To the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints,” 6 Sept. 1842, in Times and Seasons 3 (1 Oct. 1842): 934-36.

41. Joseph Smith discourse, 21 Jan. 1844, in Scott G. Kenney, ed., Wilford Woodruff’s Journal (Midvale, UT: Signature Books, 1983), 2:341-43, 21 Jan. 1844. Smith reiterated this new requirement on at least two other occasions, 8 April 1844 (Ehat and Cook, 362-65) and 12 May 1844 (ibid., 368-72).

42. William Huntington diary. Although there is evidence of at least one “rebaptism” as early as 1832 (D. Michael Quinn, “The Practice of Rebaptism at Nauvoo,” Brigham Young University Studies 18 [Winter 1978]: 227, quoting from the Journal of Jared Carter, 1831-33, 7 May 1832), that case appears to have derived from the excommunication of the man who performed the original baptism.

43. Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 2:165, 27 Mar. 1842.

44. Manuscript History of Brigham Young, 15 May 1842, LDS archives.

45. Jacob Scott to Mary Warnock, 13 May 1843, LDS archives (emphasis in original).

46. The parallel is inescapable in the case of Horace Eldredge who in 1842 was baptized seven days in a row in a freezing river for restoration of his health (Horace S. Eldredge diary, Dec. 1842, LDS archives).

47. George A. Smith, in Journal History, 9 Jan. 1832.

48. Improvement Era 3 (July 1900): 697.

49. “An Epistle of the Twelve, to the brethren scattered abroad on the Continent of America,” 12 Oct. 1841, in Times and Seasons 2 (15 Oct. 1841): 567-69.

50. Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 2:138, 21 Nov. 1841.

51. Times and Seasons 3 (15 Dec. 1841): 625-27.

52. HC, 5:167-68.

53. Philadelphia Branch Record, Oct. 1843, Library Archives, The Auditorium, Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Independence, Missouri (hereafter RLDS Library-Archives).

54. Times and Seasons 3 (15 Apr. 1842): 763.

55. Times and Seasons 3 (1 Aug. 1842): 865-66. In addressing concerns about confirmation without the laying on of hands, Apostle Joseph Fielding Smith wrote: “We may correctly believe that the Lord may bestow the gift of the Holy Ghost by other means than by the laying on of hands if occasion requires it” (“Your Question,” 390-91).

56. In 1900 First Presidency member Joseph F. Smith wrote: “As to the means through which the Holy Ghost confirms the ordinance of baptism, this is by the laying on of hands. If it be asked why this is so, the answer is, simply because God has so ordained. There are two instances on record when the Spirit confirmed baptism without the laying on of hands, (so far as we know). The one was that of Christ, the other that of Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. In the case of the Savior, the Holy Ghost manifested itself in the sign of a dove, and a voice from heaven said, `This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.’ In the case of Joseph and Oliver, `the ordinance of baptism by water was immediately followed by a most glorious baptism of the Holy Ghost.’ Divine joy and inspiration fell upon the two brethren and each in turn exercised to a remarkable degree the spirit of prophecy. (See Millennial Star, vol. 3, p. 148.)

“It will be noticed, however, that these two exceptions mark the beginning of dispensations. There was at hand no one with authority to confer the Holy Ghost by laying on of hands. But even if we had not these good reasons, the simple fact that God ordained that confirmation is to be by laying on of hands must forever dispose of the question.” (“Editor’s Table,” Improvement Era 4 [Nov. 1900]: 52-53).

57. The June 1831 general conference was likened to a Pentecost by participants, but the Latter-day Saint elders had already been confirmed prior to the conference.

58. Ezra Booth to Rev. Ira Eddy, Sept. 1831, in E. D. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed … (Painesville, OH: Published by the Author, 1834), 180-81.

59. Journal History, Apr. 1832.

60. Manuscript History of Brigham Young, 21 Nov. 1840.

61. Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 2:165, 27 Mar. 1842.

62. One example was Elijah Newman who had been unable to walk without crutches. “After the baptism and confirmation, he returned without any help” (William Clayton diary, 25 Apr. 1847, in Juvenile Instructor 21 [15 Oct. 1886]: 310).

63. Within the Christian community the term “sacrament” generally refers to many observances, of which the eucharist is but one. In the Latter-day Saint tradition “sacrament” is synonymous with eucharist and carries no other connotation. Therefore, its use throughout this section will always be in reference to the Lord’s Supper.

64. “The Articles of the Church of Christ,” in Woodford, 288.

65. Revelation dated Aug. 1830, in Painesville Telegraph, 19 Apr. 1831; also BC XXIX:2.

66. John Jaques, “Catechism for Children,” in Millennial Star 16 (28 Jan. 1854): 59.

67. St. George Stake Conference minutes, 16 Mar. 1884, in Deseret News Weekly, 2 Apr. 1884, 175.

68. Addison Pratt letter, published in Millennial Star 6 (1 Aug. 1845): 58.

69. Painesville Telegraph, 19 Apr. 1831.

70. Ibid.

71. “Kirtland Council Minutes,” 20 Feb. 1834.

72. “Record of the New Trenton Branch,” 16 Nov. 1844, RLDS Library-Archives.

73. Painesville Telegraph, 19 Apr. 1831.

74. Reynolds Cahoon diary, 26 Nov. 1831, LDS archives.

75. Orson Pratt diary, 8 Sept. 1833, LDS archives.

76. Minutes of a Conference in Far West, Missouri, 6 Apr. 1838, in Elder’s Journal 1 (July 1838): 47.

77. Corrill, chap. 27.

78. Palmyra Reflector, 14 Feb. 1831; Painesville Telegraph, 15 Feb. 1831.

79. Western Courier, 26 May 1831.

80. Geauga Gazette (Painesville), 21 June 1831; Western Reserve Chronicle (Warren), 30 June 1831; Ohio Repository (Canton), 8 July 1831; Republican Advocate (Wooster), 16 July 1831.

81. Ohio Atlas, 16 Mar. 1836; also Painesville Telegraph, 20 May 1836.

82 “The Book of John Whitmer, Kept by Commandment,” chap. 3, in F. Mark McKiernan and Roger D. Launius, eds., An Early Latter Day Saint History (Independence, MO: Herald Publishing House, 1980), 45.

83. Jared Carter journal, in Journal History, 8 June 1831.

84. Jared Carter journal, in Journal History, July 1831.

85. For example, see Journal History excerpts from Carter’s journal for July, 27 Sept. 1831, and 19 Oct. 1832.

86. David Wyman Patten journal, LDS archives.

87. Orson Pratt diary, LDS archives.

88. Ibid., 13 and 23 June 1833.

89. Painesville Telegraph, 7 Dec. 1830.

90. Palmyra Reflector, 14 Feb. 1831.

91. Painesville Telegraph, 15 Feb. 1831, emphasis in original.

92. Ibid., 5 Apr. 1831.

93. Independent Chronicle & Boston Patriot, 7 May 1831.

94. Painesville Telegraph, 13 Sept. 1831; also BC XLIV:35, 38.

95. Joseph Smith Diary, 58, 12 Nov. 1835. Compare Burlington Sentinel, 23 Mar. 1832.

96. Ibid., 14 Dec. 1835.

97. Rev. Truman Coe, in The Ohio Observer, 11 Aug. 1836.

98. Juvenile Instructor; 15 (15 May 1880): 112.

99. Joseph Smith discourse of 30 July 1840, in John Smith diary, LDS archives; in Ehat and Cook, Words of Joseph Smith, 37.

100. B. Pixley, letter of 12 Oct. 1834, in Journal and Telegraph (Albany, NY), 12 Nov. 1832.

101. Painesville Telegraph, 13 Sept. 1831; also BC XLIV:35.

102. This occurred on 8 September 1834 when Smith and Cowdery “united in anointing with oil and laying hands upon a sick sister who said she was healed” (Kirtland Council Minutes, 8 Sept. 1834).

103. In 1955 Apostle Joseph Fielding Smith addressed this issue by writing, “It is true there is no mention in the Doctrine and Covenants to the use of oil in administering to the sick, but there are references to the anointing with oil in the conferring of authority and sacred blessings. This practice has come down to us from the time of the organization of the Church, according to the pattern anciently given” (“Your Question,” Improvement Era 58 [Sept. 1955]: 622). Although he correctly cited the use of oil for other purposes, its use either for those purposes or for administering to the sick occurred no earlier than November 1835, not in 1830 as he claimed.

104. HC, 2:304-307.

105. See G. Vale, Fanaticism; Its Source and Influenze, Illustrated by the Simple Narrative of Isabelle, In the Case of MATTHIAS … (New York: G. Vale, 1835).

106. The earliest known instance occurred on 28 November 1835. Smith reported, “We prayed for and layed our hands on him [Elder Clark] in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and anointed him with oil and rebuked his affliction, praying our Heavenly Father to hear and answer our prayers according to our faith” (Joseph Smith Diary, 68, 28 Nov. 1835).

107. Willard Richards diary, 16 July 1837, LDS archives.

108. Samuel D. Tyler, “A daily journal of the traveling of the Camp of Latter-day Saints which went out from Kirtland for Zion, July 6th, 1838,” 23 Aug. 1838, in Journal History, 4 Oct. 1838.

109. “The Society Islands Mission,” Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine 5 (Apr. 1914): 66.

110. Jared Carter journal, Sept., 10 Oct. 1832.

111. Tyler, 23 Aug. 1838.

112. Examples of this type include the paralytic man (Matt. 9:1-8, Mark 2:1-12, Luke 5:17-26, John 5:6-9), the man with a withered hand (Matt. 12:9-14, Mark 3:1-6, Luke 6:6-11), and the ten lepers (Luke 17:11-14).

113. Patten journal, autumn 1832.

114. Ibid., Dec. 1832.

115. Painesville Telegraph, 13 Sept. 1831; also BC XLIV:35.

116. Jared Carter journal, 27 Sept. 1831.

117. Minutes of Sabbath meeting, 17 June 1866, in Deseret Weekly News, 21 June 1866, 229.

118. Juvenile Instructor 29 (15 Apr. 1894): 242.

119. General Conference address, 4 Apr. 1925, in Ninety-fifth Annual Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1925), 20-21.

120. Patriarchal Blessing of Lorenzo Snow, given by Joseph Smith, Sr., 15 Dec. 1836, LDS archives.

121. Heber C. Kimball discourse, 15 Mar. 1857, in Journal of Discourses (Liverpool, Eng.: S. W. Richards, 1857), 4:294.

122. Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 5:53, 25 and 26 May 1857.

123. Patriarchal Blessing of Elizabeth Ann Whitney, given by Joseph Smith, Sr., 14 Sept. 1835, Newell K. Whitney Papers, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.

124. Patriarchal Blessing of Flora Jacobs, given by Joseph Smith, Sr., 13 June 1837, William Smith Patriarchal Blessing Book, 177-78, RLDS Library-Archives.

125. Patriarchal Blessing of Edna Rogers, given by Joseph Smith, Sr., 1837, in Linda King Newell and Valeen Tippetts Avery, “Sweet Counsel and Seas of Tribulation: The Religious Life of Women in Kirtland,” Brigham Young University Studies 20 (Winter 1980): 158.

126. Patriarchal Blessing of Louisa C. Jackson, given by John Smith, 6 Feb. 1844, RLDS archives. There are undoubtedly more instances of women being given the gift of healing, but access to the patriarchal blessings books for the years of Joseph Smith’s ministry (1834-44) is not allowed under current LDS archival policy.

127. That is, no church handbook or manual lists it among official ordinances.

128. Doctrine and Covenants of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1981), 103:24-25, 24 Feb. 1834 (hereafter cited in the text as DC, LDS).

129. John Murdock journal, in Journal History, 14 June 1831.

130. John Murdock journal, late 1831.

131. For example, see Joseph Coe journal, in Journal History, 12 Oct. 1831; Orson Hyde diary, 19 Mar. 1832, Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley; Orson Pratt diary, 27 Feb., 20, 21 Mar. 1834, in Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine 28 (Apr. 1937): 92-93; Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 1:100-101, 12 Oct. 1836; and Heber C. Kimball Diary, 21, Dec. 1837.

132. Letter of Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, W. W. Phelps and John Whitmer (Kirtland, Ohio) to John M. Burk (Liberty, Clay County, Missouri), 1 June 1835, in Journal History, 1 June 1835.

133. In John C. Bennett, The History of the Saints; or an Expose of Joe Smith and Mormonism (Boston: Leland & Whiting, 1842), 136. Although Harris left the church prior to writing his account, its accuracy is confirmed by Smith’s own record: “The brethren began to prophesy upon each others heads, and cursings upon the enemies of Christ who inhabit Jackson county Missouri” (Joseph Smith Diary, 154, 30 Mar. 1836).

134. “Questions and Answers,” Millennial Star 1 (Aug. 1840): 95; questions were submitted by Joseph Fielding and answered by the editor, Parley P. Pratt.

135. Kirtland Elders’ Quorum minutes, 22 Oct. 1840, in Lyndon W. Cook and Milton V. Backman, Jr., eds., Kirtland Elders’ Quorum Record, 1836-1841 (Provo, UT: Grandin Book Co., 1985), 50-51.

136. Journal History, 18 Dec. 1847.

137. Report of Aaron F. Farr, in Journal History, 11 Feb. 1853.

138. HC, 1:82-84.

139. Painesville Telegraph, 17 Jan. 1832; also BC XXXVII:10.

140. Levi Ward Hancock diary, 4 June 1831, LDS archives. Other participants in the conference who wrote of the same event included Ezra Booth (Painesville Telegraph, 15 Nov. 1831), John Corrill (A Brief History …, chap. 10), John Whitmer (“The Book of John Whitmer, Kept by Commandment,” chap. 7), and Philo Dibble (Juvenile Instructor 27 [15 May 1892]: 303).

141. Missouri Intelligencer & Bon’s Lick Advertiser, 17 Sept. 1831; Vermont Patriot and State Gazette, 18 Sept. 1831.

142. Far West Record, 96, 21 Aug. 1834.

143. Ibid.

144. For instance, the newly called Quorum of Twelve Apostles was promised such power (Heber C. Kimball Diary, 207, as were Simeon Dunn (22 June 1840) and Howard Coray (20 Oct. 1840) in their patriarchal blessings.

145. “Nauvoo Relief Society Minutes,” 28 Apr. 1842.