Transcript: President Russell M. Nelson Remarks and Dedicatory Prayer at Priesthood Restoration Site

Transcript: President Russell M. Nelson Remarks and Dedicatory Prayer at Priesthood Restoration Site

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Harmony, Pennsylvania

September 19, 2015

President Russell M. Nelson

of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

Historic Site of Translation, Revelation, and Restoration

While the choir is exiting, I’d like to express gratitude to them in behalf of all of us. And not only that, I loved the opening song. I love the choir that’s before me here. You were focusing where we need to focus—Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee. And I’m looking forward to your closing hymn, “Nearer My God To Thee.” And after you sing that closing hymn, Sister Beverley Walker will compliment us by offering the closing prayer. I’d like to express special thanks to Sandra Major for being here and for all you represent in the way of community support.

Well, you are dear brothers and sisters. I love you all. Thank you for being here. On this historic occasion, we are assembled here in Harmony, Pennsylvania, but if you look for it on a map it won’t be there. If it’s a good map, you’ll find Oakland Township. Can you fix that, Sister Major? As we consider the significance of the many sacred events that transpired here, we are truly inspired. This rural and remote place was the scene of transcendent translation, revelation and restoration.

And I know both you and I appreciate what we’ve heard from our Church Historian and Recorder, Elder Steven E. Snow. In addition, he has published an article for this month’s edition of the Ensign magazine titled “Joseph Smith in Harmony.”[1] That article will be very helpful for any of you who would like to read more about the remarkable events that took place here during the early days of the Restoration of the Church.

Isaac and Elizabeth Hale Family

The saga of Harmony began with love. Here young Joseph Smith Jr. fell in love with a beautiful maiden named Emma Hale. Emma was one of nine children of Isaac and Elizabeth Hale. I don’t know how nine children fit in that little house. Yeah, I do—you squeeze in. The Hale family had a 130-acre farm, with orchards of apples and pears, a large garden, and groves of maple trees.

Emma was born here in July 1804, growing up with her eight brothers and sisters, all of whom acquired some basic education. Emma was described by her family as “a good horse-woman, and a canoe on the river was her plaything.” She was described as “a fair scholar for the common schools of the time, and a good singer and possessed of a fine voice . . . Her general intelligence and fearless integrity, united with her kindness of heart and splendid physical developments commanded both admiration and respect.”[2]

North of here, in nearby South Bainbridge, New York, lived a prominent resident named Josiah Stowell. Like many others in his day, Stowell made efforts to locate buried treasure. In late 1825, Joseph Smith, Sr., his son, Joseph Smith Jr. and others signed an agreement with Josiah Stowell to help him find a silver mine believed to be in this area. Stowell’s crew boarded here on the farm of Isaac and Elizabeth Hale. So, in addition to a big family in that little house—it wasn’t a large house for them—they had boarders who helped with the endeavors with the Hale family.

That circumstance provided opportunity for Joseph Smith Jr. to meet the attractive 21-year-old Emma Hale. After Josiah Stowell’s attempts at finding buried treasure had failed, Joseph remained in the area as a farmhand on Stowell’s property. Joseph frequently visited Emma, despite her father’s objections. Isaac Hale initially viewed Joseph as a stranger who “followed a business that [he, Isaac,] could not approve.”[3]

In January 1827, Joseph and Emma were married and they moved to Manchester, New York. There they lived on the family farm of Joseph’s parents, Lucy Mack Smith and Joseph Smith Sr.

Translation of the Book of Mormon

The Smith family home in upstate New York was located not far from Hill Cumorah. There, on September 21, 1823, the angel Moroni had first revealed to the young prophet the location of buried ancient golden plates. After four years of preparation, Joseph Smith received those plates from the angel Moroni on September 22, 1827, just eight months after his marriage to Emma. Moroni instructed Joseph to begin the work of translation, but threats of harm and constant harassment from enemies prevented Joseph from doing any work of translation. Because of the repeated and strenuous efforts by numerous individuals to steal the plates, Joseph and Emma were forced to leave Manchester.

Meanwhile, Emma’s father, Isaac, had softened his feelings about Joseph and invited the newlyweds to return to the Hale home in Harmony, about 120 miles southeast of Manchester. Emma’s brother, Alva Hale, assisted the Smiths in loading their wagon for the move to Harmony. This occurred in late 1827.

Upon Joseph and Emma’s return to Harmony, Isaac Hale was more than annoyed by Joseph’s refusal to let him see and handle the plates. So Joseph hid the plates in a nearby hillside. He and Emma moved into a small home built by Jesse Hale, another of Emma’s brothers. Although the work of translation was initiated in the Hale home, most of the translation was done in the Smith home, which was located on a small farm divided from the Hale property. In the beginning, Emma served as Joseph’s scribe. Later, in April 1828, Martin Harris arrived to assume temporary duties as scribe. Emma and her brother, Reuben, acted briefly as scribes during the winter of 1828–29.

But challenges continued. Emma gave birth to their son on June 15, 1828. He lived only a few hours. Then Emma became very ill—she was near death herself. Over the next few weeks Joseph cared for her. As she became stronger, she inquired about a 116-page manuscript of translated text that Joseph had reluctantly loaned to Martin Harris. She insisted that Joseph check on Martin Harris. So in early July, Joseph traveled back to Manchester. Upon learning of the loss of that precious manuscript, Joseph anguished with inconsolable grief. His mother, Lucy, described “sobs and groans and the most bitter lamentations” filling the house. Joseph cried out, “Of what rebuke am I not worthy from the Angel of the most high?” His mother added that he continued “pacing backwards and forwards weeping and grieving like a tender infant untill about sunset.”[4] Joseph was chastised and the plates were taken away for a time.

Then, from April to June 1829, translation of the plates was resumed with full intensity. Oliver Cowdery assisted as scribe. By the end of June, Joseph Smith had translated that ancient record from a language, unknown to him into the English language. It was done in less than three months! He translated at the rate of six to eight manuscript pages per day! Compare that with how you feel when you read eight to ten pages per day. He translated at that rate.

Other distractions occurred during that three-month period. Joseph and Emma had to move to Fayette, New York. He temporarily ran out of paper. He filed for a copyright, received heavenly messengers who restored the priesthood, and received 15 revelations that are now canonized in the Doctrine and Covenants.[5] How in the world could he have done all that? Only with the Lord’s help!

Most of what we know of this period of translation comes from eyewitnesses to the process. The miracle of this translation was underscored by Joseph’s wife, Emma, who said that Joseph “could neither write nor dictate a coherent and well-worded letter; let alone dictating a book like the Book of Mormon.” To their children she further explained, “Your father would dictate to me for hour after hour; and when returning after meals, or after interruptions, he would at once begin where he had left off, without either seeing the manuscript or having any portion of it read to him.”[6]

David Whitmer added, “One character at a time would appear, and under it was the interpretation in English. Brother Joseph would read off the English to Oliver Cowdery, who was the principal scribe, and when it was written down and repeated to Brother Joseph to see if it was correct, then it would disappear, and another character with the interpretation would appear.”[7]

God prepared sacred objects to assist Joseph with the translation. Interpreters—often referred to as the Urim and Thummim—were buried with the gold plates, described as a clear pair of stones bound together with a metal rim. In 1829, Joseph used the interpreters and other seer stones in the translation process. This pattern was not without precedent, as such instruments had been used by prophets throughout scriptural history to translate texts and receive divine communications.[8]

In what was then called “the preface” to the Book of Mormon, Joseph explained, “I would inform you that I translated, by the gift and power of God.”[9] He later noted that “it was not intended to tell the world all the particulars of the coming forth of the book of Mormon, & also said that it was not expedient for him to relate these things &c.”[10]

Though the precise mechanics are unknown to us, we know that it was a spiritual process. For us here and now, individual faith and receiving a testimony of the Book of Mormon far outweigh any details of stories or descriptions of how the text was revealed to Joseph Smith.

Restoration of the Priesthood

Now let us consider the remarkable reality of the restoration of the holy priesthood. We are here today to commemorate that restoration.

While translating the Book of Mormon, Joseph and Oliver came across passages that prompted questions regarding baptism and the authority to administer in such ordinances. On May 15, 1829, the two sought a secluded spot nearby to approach the Lord in prayer with specific questions. Where were they when they importuned the Lord at that “secluded spot”? While long-held tradition placed them along the banks of the Susquehanna River, historical records indicate that they retreated to a grove of sugar maple trees on the north end of the Hale farm property.[11]

As the two men prayed, they heard the voice of the Redeemer speaking peace to them, “while the veil was parted and the angel of God came down clothed with glory, and delivered the anxiously looked for message, and the keys of the gospel of repentance.”[12] That heavenly messenger was John the Baptist,[13] who had baptized the Lord Himself in mortality. Now John came as a glorious resurrected personage. We learn about the keys and powers of the restored Aaronic Priesthood in section 13 of the Doctrine and Covenants. John explained that he was acting under the direction of Peter, James, and John, Christ’s ancient Apostles who held the keys of the higher priesthood. With the laying on of hands—the procedure used for administering priesthood ordinances from the time of Adam throughout all dispensations, even to our present day—John the Baptist bestowed priesthood authority upon Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery.

Soon thereafter, true to John’s word, the Melchizedek Priesthood was restored by Christ’s Apostles Peter, James, and John. Joseph and Oliver did not specify a date for the event, but it is believed to have happened soon after the restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood. No doubt they were learning “line upon line,” perhaps not fully comprehending the nature of the priesthood and its divisions. We now know that the holy priesthood is “without beginning of days or end of years.”[14] It didn’t start in 1829.

The location for the restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood was described by Joseph as being “in the wilderness between Harmony, Susquehanna County, and Colesville, Broome County, on the Susquehanna River.”[15]

In September 1830, Emma and Joseph Smith left Harmony and moved to Fayette, New York. Even though they lived at Harmony for only a brief time, the experiences they had here were crucial to the Restoration of the Lord’s gospel. Harmony provided Joseph with spiritual solitude and protection, allowing him to focus on the translation of the Book of Mormon. Through this period, the Lord tutored Joseph in his divine role as prophet, seer, and revelator. Receiving the priesthood empowered Joseph Smith to function fully as the Prophet of this last dispensation. Here he worked during a remarkable and formative season of translation, revelation, and restoration.

How thankful we are for these historical events and for the supernal significance of revelation, scriptures, restoration of priesthood authority, and baptism, all of which unfolded here in this relatively remote but very sacred and serene location.

God be thanked for all that has recently been restored here to enrich our memories, to ennoble our souls, and to energize our commitment to advance this great and glorious work of the Lord. We praise God from whom all these blessings flow to bless the lives of His children throughout the entire world.

I testify that we are engaged in the work of Almighty God. He lives! Jesus is the Christ. His Church has been restored to the earth to accomplish its divine destiny. He directs the affairs of the Church through President Thomas S. Monson, whom we love and sustain with all our hearts, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Now, if you will bow your heads and join me in prayer, I will offer the dedicatory prayer upon this historic and sacred site.

Priesthood Restoration Site Dedicatory Prayer

Harmony, Pennsylvania

September 19, 2015

President Russell M. Nelson

Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

Our dear Heavenly Father, on this sacred occasion we pause to thank Thee for our many blessings. Thou art our God, and we are Thy people. We thank Thee for life, and all that sustains life. We thank Thee for this land of liberty where we enjoy the freedom to worship in dignity and in faith. We thank Thee for patriots and prophets who have gone before us. Our lives are ennobled and enriched because of their efforts.

Gratefully, we thank Thee for Thy Beloved Son, who gave His life that we could have the privilege of preparing for life eternal in Thy holy presence. We thank Thee for the gospel of Jesus Christ, with its ordinances and covenants that bless us and our families so abundantly.

We thank Thee for Thy holy scriptures. We thank Thee for the Prophet Joseph Smith, for the Book of Mormon, and for the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ in its fulness. We thank Thee for the restoration of the priesthood and for temples throughout the world that bless Thy children under Thy sealing authority.

We thank Thee for President Thomas S. Monson, for his noble counselors, for the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and for all General Authorities and officers of the Church. We thank Thee for our missionaries and members who strive to establish Thy righteousness among people throughout the world.

We thank Thee for the restoration of this historic site here in Harmony, Pennsylvania, with its homes, statues, buildings, and grounds. We thank Thee for the tithes and offerings of Saints across the world, whose donations have made this restoration possible. We thank Thee for the skills and artistry of craftsmen and women who actually did the work. Wilt Thou bless them and their families for their efforts.

Now we are assembled to dedicate this historic site unto Thee. Invoking the keys of the holy apostleship vested in me, and as authorized by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, I dedicate this place as the Priesthood Restoration Site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I dedicate it unto Thee and Thy Beloved Son, Jesus Christ. I dedicate it for Thy holy purposes. I dedicate it as a place of faith, a place of prayer, a place of learning, a place of glory, indeed, a place of holiness.

I dedicate the combined visitors’ center and meetinghouse, where Thy sons and daughters may worship and learn of Thee and Thy Beloved Son. I dedicate its commemorative statuary and sculptures that they may kindle grateful memories of the Resurrection and Restoration.

I dedicate the reconstructed Joseph and Emma Smith home, where much of the translation of the Book of Mormon was originally done. I dedicate the reconstructed home of Isaac and Elizabeth Hale, where their daughter, Emma, once spent the days of her childhood and youth and where Joseph Smith had once lived with Emma. There the Prophet Joseph Smith began translating characters from the golden plates. There he began to exercise his spiritual gifts and perform his prophetic ministry.

I dedicate the furnishings, infrastructure, appliances, electrical and plumbing constituents, gardens, grounds, and other complements for these buildings. I dedicate all supporting facilities and surroundings, with gratitude and appreciation for the many conveniences that will be enjoyed by Thy children here. May these precincts be revered and respected.

I dedicate the baptismal area of the Susquehanna River, where the first baptisms in this dispensation were performed. I dedicate the groves of trees—those sacred woods—where, under the direction of Peter, James, and John, the Aaronic Priesthood was restored by John the Baptist. And here I commemorate and dedicate the restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood under the hands of the Apostles Peter, James, and John.

I dedicate the highway, roads, underpass, pathways, and all other avenues, that safe access may be provided to guests that come to this sacred site.

Wilt Thou bless Thy servants and all who will labor here, and bless the inquiring minds of all who yearn to know more about Thee and Thy eternal and unchanging laws and doctrine. Bless all who enter these precincts, that they may be inspired to emulate the example of Thy Son.

We pray that Thou wilt preserve and protect this site from natural disaster of any type. Protect this site from vicious attacks of vandals or others who would presume to approach this sacred site with evil intent of any kind.

I dedicate these buildings, grounds, and groves, all to the end that faith in Thee will increase and that families may be strengthened and qualify for exaltation according to Thy great plan of happiness.

While we now dedicate this sacred site, we humbly rededicate ourselves—our time, talents, and all with which Thou hast blessed us, to build up Thy Kingdom upon the earth and establish its righteousness. I dedicate this site to stand as a symbol of our united testimony that Thou art our God, our Eternal Father, and that this is the Church of Thy Beloved Son, whom Thou hast sent. I so dedicate this Priesthood Restoration Site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.

NOTES

 

[1] Steven E. Snow, “Joseph Smith in Harmony,” Ensign, Sep. 2015, 50–57.

[2]. Recollections of the Pioneers of Lee County (Dixon, IL: Inez A. Kennedy, 1893), 96.

[3]. Isaac Hale affidavit, March 20, 1834, in “Mormonism,” Susquehanna Register, and Northern Pennsylvanian [Montrose, PA], May 1, 1834, [I].

[4]. Lucy Mack Smith history, 1844-1845, bk. 7, [6], LDS Church History Library.

[5]. Doctrine and Covenants sections 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 24, 25, 26, 27.

[6]. “Last Testimony of Sister Emma,” Saints’ Herald 26 (Oct. 1, 1879), 289–90.

[7]. David Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ (Richmond, MO: By the author, 1887), 12.

[8]. See Exodus 28:30; Leviticus 8:8; Numbers 27:21; Deuteronomy 33:8; 1 Samuel 28:6; Ezra 2:63;     Nehemiah 7:65.

[9]. 1830 Edition of the Book of Mormon, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed 6 May 2015, http://josephsmithpapers.org/paperSummary/book-of-mormon-1830#!/paperSummary/book-of-mormon-1830&p=10

[10]. Minute book 2 (Far West Record), October 25-26, 1831, LDS Church History Library.

[11]. See Mark L. Staker, “Where Was the Aaronic Priesthood Restored?: Identifying the Location of John the Baptist’s Appearance, May 15, 1829,” Mormon Historical Studies 12, no. 2 (Fall 2011): 143-159.

[12]. Oliver Cowdery, “Dear Brother,” Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate 1, no. 1 (October 1834), 15.

[13]. See Joseph Smith History 1:68–72.

[14]. Doctrine and Covenants 84:17.

[15]. Doctrine and Covenants 128:20.

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