Circumstances surrounding the Restoration of Melchizedek Priesthood
In addition, the reminiscences of a Church member named Addison Everett may be helpful regarding the site and circumstances of the restoration of the higher priesthood. In 1881 he wrote a letter to a Church member named Oliver B. Huntington and then, in 1882, another letter to President Joseph F. Smith (Second Counselor to President John Taylor at the time), sharing at their request what he knew of that event. In his letter to President Smith, he recalled hearing the Prophet, in Nauvoo a few days before the Martyrdom, relate the circumstances surrounding the restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood.
Joseph Smith, Brother Everett wrote, “Said as they Ware Tran[s]lating the Book of Mormon at His Father In Laws in Susquhanah County Pennsylvania. T[h]ey ware thretned By a Mob and in the same time Father Knghts came Down from Cole[s]vill[e] Broom[e] County New York and Desired them to go home with him and preach to them in his Neighbourhood And on Account of the Mob Spirit prevailing they concluded to goe.”
But even after they arrived at the Knights’ residence in Colesville, opposition soon plagued them. Once again circumstances forced them to flee in haste from the mob and to return to Harmony. Brother Everett’s letter continues: “And they wandered in a dense Forest all Night and often times in Mud and water up to thare Knees. And Brother Oliver got quite exausted in the After Part of the Night and Brother Joseph had to put his arm arround him and allmost carry him. And Just as the day Broke in the East Brother Oliver gave out Entirely and he[,] Br Joseph[,] leaned him against an oak tree just out side a field fenc[e] Br Oliver Crying out how long O Lord O how Long Br Joseph hav[e] we got to suffer these things[?] Just this moment Peter James & John came to us and Ordained to the Holy Apostelship and gave us the Keys of the Dispnsation of the fullness of times. (The Restoration of the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods, Larry C. Porter, Ensign 1996 December)
I like this story for several reasons. What greater image of the priesthood can be found than that of a brother carrying another in the midst of severe trial? This to me is what the priesthood is all about. Lifting others in their times of deepest distress. At the very moment when Joseph and Oliver are exhausted, their priesthood brethren Peter, James, and John come to the rescue to give them shelter from the storms they are facing. I believe that they not only received the priesthood at this time, but counsel and comfort as well. This is what the priesthood is all about.
Another great principle to teach the youth with regards to this story is what S. Michael Wilcox calls the Fourth Watch principle. It is usually in the fourth watch that the Savior comes to our aid. The watches were periods of time that individuals stood guard in the ancient world. The first watch was typically 6-9pm, the second was 9-12, the third was 12-3am, and the fourth watch was 3-6am. When the Savior saw the disciples toiling amidst the storm, we are told that he does not come to their aid right away, but that he waits until the fourth watch. We believe in a fourth watch God.
And straightway he constrained his disciples to get into the ship, and to go to the other side before unto Bethsaida, while he sent away the people.
And when he had sent them away, he departed into a mountain to pray.
And when even was come, the ship was in the midst of the sea, and he alone on the land.
And he saw them toiling in rowing; for the wind was contrary unto them: and about the fourth watch of the night he cometh unto them, walking upon the sea, and would have passed by them.
But when they saw him walking upon the sea, they supposed it had been a spirit, and cried out:
For they all saw him, and were troubled. And immediately he talked with them, and saith unto them, Be of good cheer: it is I; be not afraid. (Mark 6:45-50)
We see this principle over and over again in the scriptures. Joseph Smith’s life is another illustration of this truth.
Joseph recalls that when he prayed that he had to ask God to “deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me, and at the very moment when I was ready to sink into bdespair and abandon myself to destruction—not to an imaginary ruin, but to the power of some actual being from the unseen world, who had such marvelous power as I had never before felt in any being—just at this moment of great alarm, I saw a pillar of clight exactly over my head, above the brightness of the dsun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me.”
It wasn’t until Abraham was at the ready with the knife that the Lord stayed the sacrifice of Isaac (Genesis 22:10). It is when the water is spent in the bottle that the Lord saves Hagar (Genesis 21:15-19). Nephi had several experiences with deliverance where he was near or at the point of death as well (1 Nephi 3:27-30). These are excellent illustrations that can be used to show that we believe in a God who is ever mindful of our situation, but who oftentimes waits until the fourth watch to come to our aid. These truths motivate the youth to hang on, God is mindful of you and loves you. He is a God of the fourth watch.