When Joseph and Oliver were engaged in translating the Book of Mormon they came to a passage which told of baptism in water for the remission of sins. This was not quite plain to them. They knew, of course, something of the many kinds of baptism practiced by the various sects of the day, but if the religions on the earth at that time were not accepted of the Lord as Joseph had been told, none of the ministers would have a right to baptize; besides, the passage in the Book of Mormon said that baptism was for the remission of sins. The preachers did not teach it this way, though they could read that it was taught in the same manner by the apostles in Christ’s time. (Acts 2:38.)
This right or authority to do things in the name of the Lord is called Priesthood. The apostles and prophets of old had it, but where were they to look for this power now?
So Joseph and Oliver on the 15th day of May, 1829, went into the woods to ask the Lord about it. Their prayer was answered by an angel who told them that his name was John, called John the Baptist, who had baptized Jesus in the river Jordan. He said he had come to restore a portion of the holy Priesthood, even that part which would give them power to baptize for the remission of sins, but not to lay on hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost. He promised them that if they were faithful this other power would be given them later.
The angel then laid his hands on their heads and ordained them to the Aaronic Priesthood. He told Joseph to baptize Oliver, after which Oliver was to baptize Joseph. Then Joseph was to ordain Oliver and Oliver to do the same to Joseph. All this they gladly did, and immediately they were filled with great joy.
Thus was the power to baptize for the remission of sins again given to the earth. Think what a great event it was! None in all the world had this power, save two unknown young men in the woods of Pennsylvania. Great things often have small beginnings. Now there are thousands who have this blessed power, and no doubt the elder that baptized each of you can trace his ordination which gave him the authority to do so back to Joseph or Oliver and from them to John the baptist.
Sometime in June, 1829, the promise which John made to the young men was fulfilled. The ancient apostles Peter, James, and John, who held the keys of this higher power came to Joseph and Oliver and ordained them to the Melchizedek Priesthood. This gave them the power to lay on hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, and also to go forth and administer in the ordinances of the gospel.
Topics.—1. Priesthood. 2. Visit of John the Baptist. 3. Visit of Peter, James, and John.
Questions and Review.—1. What led Joseph and Oliver to ask the Lord about baptism? 2. What is baptism for? 3. How is it performed? 4. How did Joseph and Oliver get the authority to baptize? 5. Who was John the Baptist? 6. What is Priesthood? 7. Name the two grades of Priesthood. 8. Who baptized you? 9. How did he get the authority to baptize? 10. Who were Peter, James, and John? 11. What did they do? 12. Give the date of John’s visit.