Nathan Richardson, Dr. Michael Hubbard MacKay, Church History and Doctrine
Many historians, both Mormon and non-Mormon, have developed ideas about the restoration of the priesthood, and there is a rich literature that describes the details of those events. However, the Joseph Smith Papers Project, for which my mentor, Dr. MacKay is an author, has uncovered new information and produced new analysis from their detailed work that will help reinterpret and specify some of the important events of the restoration. This analysis is valuable to both the Church as a whole and to my individual knowledge and testimony of the Church. The ORCA research project in which I have participated has supported the work of Dr. Michael MacKay on his book manuscript about the restoration of the priesthood.
The methodology of this project has consisted of various instructional sessions, hours of individual research, and careful guidance producing a scholarly research paper, which thoroughly summarizes current views regarding the Melchizidek Priesthood restoration, and in addition, presents the main conclusions of Dr. MacKay’s new research.
Specifically, over the course of 2014, I attended mentoring meetings, in which Dr. MacKay aided me in gaining a profound knowledge of the Addison Everett account, the chamber of Father Whitmer, and many other accounts from leading researchers from the past century, all of which are crucial accounts in order to be able to nail down a specific time period and location in which Peter, James, and John appeared to the prophet Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery.
In addition to these mentoring meetings, Dr. MacKay assigned me to familiarize myself thoroughly with the Addison Everett letters, and in addition, with all of the research and conclusions that have been made regarding the Melchizidek Priesthood restoration. This process involved many hours of individual reading, all of which contributed to a deep understanding of the time period, the significant accounts, and the internal logic which must necessarily be utilized in order to draw conclusions about the specific time and location in which the Melchizidek Priesthood was bestowed by Peter, James and John.
The crowning achievement of this ORCA project has been the aforementioned research paper, which in addition to giving a concise overview of all previous research, presents the corrections and alterations, which can now be made, based upon Dr. MacKay’s recent historical findings.
Given the large amount of effort that has been dedicated towards the development of this research paper as part of our ORCA project, we consider it appropriate to include this short excerpt, which comprises its introduction and main thesis statement:
“For the Son of man … gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch” – Mark 13:34
In each dispensation of time, The Church of Jesus Christ has been characterized by a crucial component, the bestowal of God’s authority in order to act in his name. This power, also known as the priesthood power, is recorded and frequently referenced as having been possessed by prophets and Disciples of Christ throughout all scripture, both ancient and modern. From the prophet Adam, to Noah, Moses, Abraham, Enoch, Elijah, and ultimately, Jesus Christ, priesthood power was directly given from above through divine ordination. Likewise, this anciently established pattern has been continued in the last dispensation, as demonstrated in their modern Prophet Joseph Smith’s ordination to both the Aaronic and Melchizidek priesthoods by John the Baptist (Aaronic), Peter, James, and John (Melchizidek). A careful examination of crowning historical events such as these is crucial in order to verify and legitimize the possession of God’s authority in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
A great portion of such an examination demands research regarding the specific details surrounding the restoration of the priesthood, such as exactly when and where these events occurred. While the most important matter, of course is that the Melchizidek Priesthood was restored, research in to the specific details can give a more complete picture of the time period, and even help clarify doctrinal questions and concerns regarding the need for the priesthood in early Church history. In recent years, research has allowed for certain conclusions to be drawn. However, many historians are still debating the specifics surrounding certain details. Particular among these, is the exact date of the Melchizidek Priesthood restoration.
The paper then proceeds to examine the research of the leading historians in the subject: Larry Porter, and Richard Bushman. Following said examination, the accounts of Brigham Young and the Addison Everett letters, both of which are crucial to any and all dating efforts, are explored. Dr. MacKay and I plan to publish this paper and present it in the upcoming religious symposium.
In conclusion, I consider this project as having been beneficial. Although many of our original plans had to be modified due to different circumstances, the project has been very educational, and has produced a paper, which will likely be published and presented in the upcoming religious symposium. In addition, it has supported the work of Dr. Michael MacKay with his book manuscript. I am grateful for the opportunity that I have had to participate in this project.