Section 12
A revelation given to Joseph Knight Sr. in Harmony, Pennsylvania, May 1829. Image courtesy of

In the spring of 1829, Joseph Knight was in his late fifties and lived with his large family in Colesville, New York, a long day’s journey from Joseph home in Harmony, Pennsylvania. He routinely supplied Joseph with food, shoes, cash, and paper to see him through the translation process.[1] During one of his visits, Father Knight was “very anxious to know his duty as to this work.”  Joseph asked the Lord, who answered with the revelation in section 12.[2]  

It says many similar things as revelations to Joseph Smith, Sr., Oliver Cowdery, given earlier or around the same time: A great and marvelous work is about to be made known to mankind. Like a sword that cuts both ways, the Lord’s words can bless and curse, save and damn. The figurative field is ready for harvest. Whoever desires to harvest should do so all day long, saving his soul in the process.  God calls whoever will harvest. If Father Knight will ask, God will answer. Since he has asked, the Lord tells him to keep the commandments and work for Zion.  

One of the great souls who made the restoration possible, Joseph Knight obeyed this revelation. He did all in his power to bring forth the Book of Mormon. He transported Joseph Smith in his wagon when he went to Fayette to organize the church in April 1830 and in his sleigh when he moved to Ohio early in 1831. He was “first to administer to my necessities while I was laboring in the commencement of bringing for the work of the Lord, and of laying the foundation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” Joseph remembered. “Faithful and true, and even handed, and exemplary and virtuous and kind.”[3]

Section 13

Section 13 is an excerpt from Joseph’s Manuscript History. It is the words by which John the Baptist ordained Joseph and Oliver to the priesthood of Aaron on May 15, 1829. 

They had been translating the Book of Mormon, likely in 3 Nephi about the Savior’s commission to Nephi and others, “I give unto you power that ye shall baptize this people when I am again ascended into heaven” (3 Nephi 11:21-26). As Joseph read those words to Oliver in May 1829, it was as if the Savior was teaching them too. They realized that no one on earth in 1829 had the Lord’s permission and power to baptize. No one.[1] They went to the woods for what Oliver described as fervent prayer. To “inquire of the Lord respecting baptism for the remission of sins as we found mentioned in the translation of the plates,” Joseph said.[2]

His account continues: “a Messenger from heaven, descended in a cloud of light, and having laid his hands upon us, he ordained us, saying unto us; ‘Upon you my fellow servants in the name of Messiah I confer the priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins, and this shall never be taken again from the earth, until the sons of Levi do offer an offering unto the Lord in righteousness.”[3]

Only later in his narrative, almost as an afterthought, Joseph reveals the messenger’s identity: he “said that his name was John, the same that is called John the Baptist in the new Testament, and that he acted under the direction <of> Peter, James, and John.”

Joseph’s straightforward account can seem matter-of-fact. Oliver, by contrast, could barely contain himself when he wrote the story years later: “Twas the voice of the angel from glory—twas a message from the Most High! . . . .  Where was room for doubt?  No where.”[4]

Joseph and Oliver followed John the Baptist’s instructions and immersed each other in the Susquehanna River, then ordained each other. “We were filled with the Holy Ghost,” Joseph said, “and rejoiced in the God of our salvation.”[5] Soon Joseph’s brother Samuel was baptized by this authority, and so on down to each person who has received the gospel of repentance and baptism by immersion in the last dispensation. 

That will continue until, or so that, the sons of Levi (modern Aaronic priesthood holders, cross reference D&C 84:26-34 and D&C 128:24) can offer the Lord the latter-day equivalent of their service in the ancient temples.

There is reason to believe that there is more to keys of ministering angels mentioned by John the Baptist than most commentaries on section 13 consider. The keys are mentioned again and associated with John the Baptist in D&C 84, a temple revelation describing how priesthoods, keys, ordinances, and endowments of power were offered anciently and will be again. When Joseph gave a rapid rundown of temple related restorations of keys, knowledge, and power in D&C 128, he mentioned how Adam showed him how to discern the devil on the banks of the Susquehanna River. That must have happened at about the same time John the Baptist restored priesthood that held the keys to that knowledge. Joseph taught it to Parley Pratt, as recorded esoterically in D&C 129 with the euphemism of hand shaking standing in for temple knowledge, or in other words keys governed by Aaronic priesthood that enable a person to detect the devil when he appears as an angel of light (D&C 128:20).[6]

Section 12 notes

[1]  Joseph Knight, Reminiscences, MS 3470, Church History Library, Salt Lake City.

[2] “History, 1838–1856, volume A-1 [23 December 1805–30 August 1834],” p. 21, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed September 22, 2020,

[3] “Journal, December 1841–December 1842,” p. 179, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed July 22, 2020,

Section 13 notes

[1] “History, 1834–1836,” p. 48, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed July 22, 2020,

[2] “History, 1838–1856, volume A-1 [23 December 1805–30 August 1834],” p. 17, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed July 22, 2020,

[3] “History, 1838–1856, volume A-1 [23 December 1805–30 August 1834],” p. 17, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed July 22, 2020,

[4] “History, 1834–1836,” p. 48, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed July 22, 2020,

[5] “History, 1838–1856, volume A-1 [23 December 1805–30 August 1834],” p. 18, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed September 22, 2020,

[6] Wilford Woodruff Journal, June 27, 1839.  President Joseph Smith’s Journal 1843 As kept by Willard Richards, 170-172 (February 9, 1843).  Both journals are in the Church History Library, Salt Lake City.  

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