Paul and the church at Judea

I was reading through the resurrection narratives in the four gospels, thinking about writing something about Mary Magdalene because of some comments I wrote on a Wheat & Tares post by Mormon Heretic [Smearing Mary Magdalene].

I was writing down the order of appearences made by Jesus after he resurrects from the grave, as given by each of the four witnesses that we have canonized currently.

The four gospel narratives:


  • Mary Magdelene, out of whom Jesus had cast seven devils
  • two of them as they walked and went into the country
  • the eleven


  • Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with him
  • two of them on the road to a village called Emmaus
  • Simon
  • the eleven


  • Mary Magdalene and the other Mary
  • the eleven


  • Mary Magdalene
  • the disciples
  • Thomas

Paul’s letter to the Corinthians:

Though we think of Paul as coming later in chronology — in terms of historical dates for the written records — the authenticated letters of Paul are the earliest written Christian documents of the bible.  In other words, what got written down into [e.g.] Corinthian epistles was physically put to paper before the words that got written down as the Mark, Matthew, Luke, or John narratives.

1 Corinthians 15:5-8, then, gives what is the earliest [historically-speaking] written account of post-mortal appearances of Jesus, given as testimony that he did indeed resurrect from the grave.  Paul writes the appearances in this order:

  • Cephas
  • the twelve
  • over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain unto this present but some are fallen asleep
  • James
  • all the apostles
  • Paul himself

Of interest in Paul’s list is that the order is unlike anything seen in the four gospel narratives.  The risen Jesus is seen by Peter first — not Mary [she’s not there at all].

Then he is seen by “the twelve” — not the “eleven” [implying Judas was not counted out of the number of the quorum].

Then there is a large event where over 500 men see him at one time.  This would have undoubtably been a miraculous account, if only our canon contained it.  Paul was obviously using that appearance to lend the most verifiable credibility to his own testimony — because he makes it a point to mention that many of those men are still alive today — as if to say to the readers, “You can go ask them if you doubt me, they’re still around.”

Then James is mentioned separate from “the twelve” — presumably because this is “James, the Lord’s brother“, rather than the apostle who was John’s brother.  Also it is interesting to note that Peter, the twelve, and James are all mentioned as separate from “all the apostles.”  This suggests that what Paul considered an “apostle” is different from the Quorum of twelve male key-holders that we currently think of when we use that word:

salute Andronicus
and Junia
my kin
and my fellowprisoners
who are noteworthy apostles
who also were in christ before me

[Romans 16:7]

Paul’s bound-less concept of the gospel:

I was thinking of some reasons why this would be.  Paul seems to have thought about the church of Christ in terms that were broader in scope and more “bound-less” in understanding than did the brethren at Jerusalem.  It was his radical idea that if it is indeed true that every one is justified, sanctified, and purified by faith in the blood of Christ alone — then:

there is neither jew nor greek
there is neither bond nor free
there is neither male nor female
for ye are all one
in christ

[Galatians 3:28]

… a message of a gospel of uncircumcision — egalitarian tribal anarchy — or complete liberty in Christ.

Paul, in fact, did not seem to quorum with the twelve at Jerusalem and Peter at all.  He makes it a point in his letter to the Galatian church to state that the gospel he delivered to them was given to him straight from the mouth of Jesus — and not from the oral tradition and records of the men at Jerusalem:

an apostle not of men, neither by man
but by Jesus christ, and god the father, who raised him from the dead
unto the churches of Galatia
I certify you
that the gospel which was preached of me
is not after man
for I neither received it of man
neither was I taught it
but it came by the revelation of Jesus christ

but when it pleased god
to reveal his son in me
that I might preach him among the gentiles
immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood
neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me
after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter
and abode with him fifteen days
but I saw none of the other apostles
save James the Lord’s brother
I was unknown by face unto the churches of Christ in Judea

[Galatians 1]

Paul also describes how Peter acted with “stiffneckedness and unbelief” [3 Nephi 15:18]:

when the brethren at Jerusalem saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me
as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter
and when James, Cephas, and John
who seemed to be pillars
perceived the grace that was given unto me
they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship
that we should go unto the gentiles
and they unto the circumcision

but when Peter was come to Antioch
I withstood him to the face
because he was to be blamed
for […] he did eat with the Gentiles
but when they were come [from Judea]
he withdrew and separated himself fearing them which were of the circumcision

but when I saw that they walked not uprightly
according to the truth of the gospel
I said unto Peter before them all
if thou, being a jew, livest after the manner of gentiles […] why compellest thou the gentiles to live as do the jews?
knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law
but by the faith of Jesus christ
even we have believed in Jesus christ
that we might be justified by the faith of christ
and not by the works of the law
for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified

[Galatians 2]

In fact, the undisputedly authentic letters of Paul [Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, Philemon, and 1 Thessalonians] are never addressed to:

  • “Bishop So-and-so, of the church at ______”

or to

  • “The elders of the church at _______”


But are always addressed to just “the church”, as a leaderless body of equals who gather together for worship.  It’s not until the disputed letters of Paul [1 and 2 Timothy and Titus] that you start to see a leadership hierarchy being given direction that they are to pass on to the lay-members.

The church of Christ in Judea went through all three stages of the church of God:

It started in stage one, built on the miraculous works of the Father:

and when the day of pentecost was fully come
they were all with one accord in one place
and suddenly there came a sound from heaven
as of a rushing mighty wind
and it filled all the house where they were sitting
and there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire
and it sat upon each of them
and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost
and began to speak with other tongues
as the Spirit gave them utterance

[Acts 2:1-4]

The church of Christ multiplied greatly, the word of God was preached with authority and power, the community of believers lived as Zion, etc.

By the time we get to the time at which Paul begins writing his letters [~40-50’s AD], the church of Christ has entered the stage two, built on the works of men.

The church in Judea governs according to their Judean culture, instead of the purity of the truth of the gospel alone.  The “stiffneckedness and unbelief” that Jesus mentioned to the Nephite church began to exert itself until manifestations of power began leaving the church.

The church of Christ begins to solidify into a hierarchy of religious brokers — who see themselves as having the jurisdiction over who experiences Jesus and how.

In the gospel of Mary Magdelene, it reads:

When Mary had [told the twelve what Jesus taught to her], she fell silent, since it was to this point that the Savior had spoken with her.

But Andrew answered and said to the brethren:  “Say what you wish to say about what she has said. I at least do not believe that the Savior said this. For certainly these teachings are strange ideas.”

Peter answered and spoke concerning the same things.  He questioned them about the Savior, saying:  “Did He really speak privately with a woman and not openly to us?  Are we to turn about and all listen to her?  Did He prefer her to us?”

Then Mary wept and said to Peter: “My brother Peter, what do you think? Do you think that I have thought this up myself in my heart, or that I am lying about the Savior?”

Levi answered and said to Peter:  “Peter you have always been hot tempered.  Now I see you contending against the woman like the adversaries.  But if the Savior made her worthy, who are you indeed to reject her?  Surely the Savior knows her very well.”

Finally the history of the church of Christ passes through stage three [built on the works of the devil] — where at some point, it is wholly rejected by the Lord and ceased to have any power or authority.

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Was John the Baptist on Dope?

Here is the protocol for conferring either of the two priesthoods:

1. Call the baptized, worthy male by name.

2. State the priesthood authority.

3. Confer the priesthood.

4. Ordain to an office.

5. Close in the name of Jesus Christ.

John the Baptist, though, who should have known better, did everything wrong.  Here are his errors:

Conferred priesthood on unbaptized men

Neither Joseph Smith nor Oliver Cowdery were baptized when they had the priesthood conferred on them.

Try getting your bishop to give you permission to confer the Aaronic priesthood on any unbaptized man.  See if he’ll authorize it. He’ll probably say something like, “Sure, I’ll authorize it, just as soon as he’s baptized.”  The principle is well established: first comes baptism, then comes priesthood.  If you attempt to reverse the order, every bishop, stake president and GA will INVALIDATE the conferral.

Did not call the men by name

Both Joseph and Oliver agree that the angel merely began his conferral by stating, “Upon you my fellow servants.”

Try conferring the Aaronic priesthood upon someone and start the ordinance by saying, “Upon you my fellow servant,” without stating the person’s name and see if the bishop or other presiding elder doesn’t stop you short and tell you to do it again, as the first time was INVALIDATED by your lack of specifying who you were talking to.

Conferred priesthood upon two men at once

This appears to be the only instance of one man conferring the priesthood upon two men simultaneously.  The conferral of priesthood ordinance is a uniquely personal experience.  One ordinance per person, not one ordinance per two people.

The next time two young men are ready to receive the Aaronic priesthood, try conferring them both simultaneously and see how quickly the bishop stops you.  If it doesn’t become instantly plain that you performed an INVALID ordinance, it will as the years go by and you are never allowed to perform another ordinance of record.

Did not state the priesthood authority

In the words of Joseph, the angel said,

“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 again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness.”  (See JS—H 1: 68-74)

Normally, an Aaronic priesthood holder would say something like, “…by the authority of the Aaronic priesthood which I hold” or something to that effect.  According to Joseph, though, the angel didn’t state that he held this priesthood, at all.  He only stated which priesthood he was conferring.

Try conferring the Aaronic priesthood without stating your authority and see if it flies.  Chances are, those around you are going to tell you to perform the ordinance again because it is INVALID unless you state the authority.

Did not state what priesthood was given

If we take the words of Oliver, the angel said,

“Upon you my fellow-servants, in the name of Messiah, I confer this Priesthood and this authority, which shall remain upon earth, that the Sons of Levi may yet offer an offering unto the Lord in righteousness!”  (See JSH Footnote)

Normally, when conferring the Aaronic priesthood, an Aaronic or Melchizedek priesthood holder would state which priesthood is being conferred, Aaronic or Melchizedek, but notice that according to Oliver, the angel only stated “this Priesthood and this authority” without specifying which priesthood was being conferred.

Try conferring the Aaronic (or Melchizedek) priesthood without actually stating which priesthood you are conferring and see if you are not told to perform the ordinance again because the first attempt was INVALID.

Did not ordain to an office of the priesthood

Now, technically, you don’t have to ordain to an office of the priesthood, but it is the protocol to do so when the priesthood is conferred.

Did not close in the name of Jesus Christ

Instead, he opened in the name of Messiah.   Christ is from Greek meaning “Anointed One” and Messiah is from Hebrew meaning “Anointed One,” so, since they mean the same thing, he essentially used the name of Christ, but he did not use Jesus’ first name.

Try opening prayers and ordinances with “in the name of Messiah” (and without any other closing use of the name of Jesus Christ) and see if you are not accused of performing the ordinance INVALIDLY.

Even More Unorthodox Stuff

Conferred Priesthood of Aaron upon non-descendants of Aaron

These were two Gentile men who were not descendants of Aaron.  One of the peculiar things about the Aaronic priesthood is that is was only intended for Aaron’s literal descendants.  The Priesthood of Aaron was not for the Levites, nor for the other tribes of Israel, only for Aaron and his sons.

The priests must be Aaron’s sons (Num. 16: 3-10, 40; Num. 18: 1) and free from all important bodily blemishes or infirmities or diseases.  (BD: Priests)

Additionally, Joseph had a bodily blemish from the operation he had when an 11-year old child, which also disqualified him.

Conferred Levitical Priesthood upon non-descendants of Levi

Again, we have two Gentile men receiving Levitical priesthood, or priesthood that pertains exclusively to the tribe of Levi.  Aaron and Levitical priesthood is the same, except that Aaron and sons held the offices of priest and high priest while the non-Aaronite Levites held lesser offices of that priesthood (like teachers and deacons.)

The terms Aaronic and Levitical are sometimes used synonymously (D&C 107: 1, 6, 10), although there are some specific differences in the offices existing within the Levitical Priesthood. For example, the lesser priesthood was conferred only upon men of the tribe of Levi. However, within the tribe, only Aaron and his sons could hold the office of priest. And, still further, from the firstborn of Aaron’s sons (after Aaron) was selected the high priest (or president of the priests). Thus Aaron and his sons after him had greater offices in the Levitical Priesthood than did the other Levites.  (BD: Aaronic Priesthood)

A high priest of the Melchizedek priesthood can officiate in all the offices of the lesser priesthood, but neither Joseph nor Oliver were high priests of the Melchizedek priesthood when they received the Priesthood of Aaron from the angel and baptized each other (a power associated with the office of a priest of the Aaronic priesthood.)

The angel’s instructions: baptize each other

Joseph said that the angel “gave us directions that I should baptize Oliver Cowdery, and that afterwards he should baptize me.”

This means that an unbaptized man baptized a man into the church of Christ.  Today, were this to happen, the authorities of the church would INVALIDATE the baptism and would insist that the man be re-baptized by some baptized man who held at least the Aaronic priesthood.  By today’s standards, then, Oliver’s baptism was INVALID.

Continuing this logic, if Oliver’s baptism was invalid, then he was still unbaptized when he baptized Joseph, which, by applying the same standards of today, would make Joseph’s baptism INVALID.

As all baptism in the church is traced to the authority obtained by Joseph and Oliver from this angel, this would mean that all church baptisms are INVALID because protocols were breached from the very beginning, starting the church off on the wrong foot from the get-go.

The correct (modern) procedure is to baptize first, then confer priesthood.  Had the angel baptized one or both of the men first, then conferred the priesthood upon the one or both of them that was baptized, or instructed the one baptized and conferred to baptize and confer the other, the protocols would have remained intact.

The angel’s instructions: ordain each other

Said Joseph, “Accordingly we went and were baptized. I baptized him first, and afterwards he baptized me—after which I laid my hands upon his head and ordained him to the Aaronic Priesthood, and afterwards he laid his hands on me and ordained me to the same Priesthood—for so we were commanded.”

They were instructed to ordain each other to the Aaronic Priesthood.  Not to an office of the Aaronic Priesthood, but to the Aaronic Priesthood.

Another curious thing is that Joseph stated that the angel “ordained us” before they baptized each other and then commanded them to ordain each other after they baptized each other.  This would make a double ordination.

INVALID any way you look at it

By modern LDS standards, the Aaronic priesthood ordinations of the non-Aaronic, non-Levite, physically blemished Gentiles, Joseph and Oliver, and their subsequent baptisms and ordinations (of each other), as well as those of all the other people who received baptism and authority to baptize from their hands, on down through the generations of the church, are all invalid.

So, was John the Baptist on dope when he was sent by Peter, James and John to confer priesthood authority on Joseph and Oliver?  Certainly the above list of evidences would be typical actions of one who abused substances.  Such “turning of things upside down” may bring into question whether John was even sent by Peter, James and John, as was his claim!  Perhaps he was just acting alone and doing his own thing?

Even more evidence of drug use

Joseph, an eyewitness, stated, “a messenger from heaven descended in a cloud of light.”  And Oliver, another eyewitness, stated, “the angel of God came down.”  So, we know for a fact that John was high during this event.

An alternate interpretation

May I offer another interpretation that could possibly explain all the strange behavior listed above?  Consider the following scripture, which speaks of John:

For he was baptized while he was yet in his childhood, and was ordained by the angel of God at the time he was eight days old unto this power, to overthrow the kingdom of the Jews, and to make straight the way of the Lord before the face of his people, to prepare them for the coming of the Lord, in whose hand is given all power.  (D&C 84: 28)

Now, think for a moment.  Who goes around trying to overthrow governments? That’s right.  John the Baptist was obviously an anarchist!

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Seeing Apostasy from Within

“…we know that the people who were in the land of Jerusalem were a righteous people; for they kept the statutes and judgments of the Lord, and all his commandments, according to the law of Moses; wherefore, we know that they are a righteous people…” 1 Nephi 17:22

After nearly a decade of wandering in the desert, Lehi and his family arrived on the seashore and pitched their tents in the land they called Bountiful. Nephi, according to the word of the Lord, began to fashion tools for the construction of a ship. Laman and Lemuel began, once again, to complain citing the above reference regarding the people of Jerusalem. From their view, their friends back home were on the right path. They bemoaned the fact that they could not enjoy their possessions and be happy.

As we stand here centuries later, we can see the big picture. The house of Israel has fallen into disrepair. The people of God had replaced their love and service of God with the pomp and circumstance derived from wealth and pleasure. Apostasy had set in. But to Laman and Lemuel, their easy lifestyle enjoyed in Jerusalem was the standard by which they measured the ‘rightness’ of their living. No admonition from either Lehi or Nephi could sway their sons and brothers from this viewpoint.

Given the difficulty that Laman had in seeing the real picture, how hard would it be for us in this day to see the threads of apostasy in our normal lives? Have we supplanted what the Lord defined for righteousness with our own comfortable standard?

I believe that this movement away from the truth is apostasy and can occur at two levels, organization and personal. The former dealing with the migration of the goals and objectives  promoted by the leadership and the latter expressed in our individual thoughts and actions. Let’s take a look at these two themes.

Corporate Apostasy

Today, we can easily see that the church established by the apostles in the meridian of time moved away from the true principles established by Christ. Let’s look a little more closely at what outward characteristics emerged from this change.

As we look at the Holy Roman Church, we find an entity that expressed itself in the form of magnificent edifices. St. Peter’s Basilica, first commissioned by Constantine, was rebuilt in the 15th century with no equal. While churches dominated the landscape of most cities of the time, none compared to the structure finally completed in the early 1600’s. A considerable amount of wealth was spent in the construction of beautiful buildings, meant to send a message of the power and prestige of the Catholic church.

The need of the church to express itself in terms of its physical environment extended to the surrounding areas of its headquarters in Vatican City. Speaking of the popes of the 14th and 15th century, here is a quote from The Restoration by Wil Durant (page 14):

“They labored to redeem Rome from the ugliness and squalor into which it had fallen while the popes were in Avignon. They drained marshes (by comfortable proxy), paved streets, restored bridges and roads, improved the water supply, established the Vatican Library and the Capitoline Museum, enlarged the hospitals, distributed charity, built or repaired churches, embellished the city with palaces and gardens, reorganized the University of Rome, supported the humanists in resurrecting pagan literature, philosophy, and art, and gave employment to painters, sculptors, and architects whose works are now a treasured heritage of all mankind…perhaps they thought of it as transforming scattered crumbs of evanescent wealth into a lasting splendor for the people and their God.”

The true reverence of God is not expressed in magnificent buildings, gardens, and lavish art. Could this extravagant effort to honor God with the works of man be an outward sign to the apostasy within?

At its height, the Holy Roman Church exerted political influence well beyond the confines of the Vatican. Princes and kings sought out the elite of the church hierarchy to solidify alliances and to position themselves. Leaders of the church traveled not only to Germany and France but to China and India to gain favor with the rulers of these foreign lands. At home and abroad, politics played an integral role in the lives of the popes. Does the ability to influence politics domestically and worldwide serve as a marker of the wayward path?

The practice of indulgences, the idea of reducing the time of a loved one in Purgatory through the purchase of the excess grace of the saints, represented one of the primary methods for creating ongoing cash flow. The donations to the church, then as now, were viewed as ‘fire insurance.’ To spin off an old refrain, money corrupts, and a lot of money corrupts greatly. Such was the Catholic Church in the middle ages. Property bequeathed to the church held the giver higher in the eyes of God, or does it generate a false hope?

Four years before Martin Luther tacked his 95 Theses on the door of the church at Wittenberg, Machiavelli penned the following in his Discourses, iii:

“ Had the religion of Christianity been preserved according to the ordinances of the Founder, the state and the commonwealth of Christendom would have been far more united and happy than they are. … And whoever examines the principles which that religion is founded, and sees how widely different from those principles its present practice and application are, will judge that her ruin or chastisement is near at hand.”

This statement foreshadowed the reformation; an effort to return to the basic principles that were contained in the founding words of apostles. Have we of the LDS church diverged from the original principles upon which the religion was founded? Has the money and power afforded the LDS church over these last decades succeeded in moving us away from the principles contained in the fulness of the gospel? I have found nothing in the scriptures that suggests this generation is immune from apostasy. Are we so blind, as Laman and Lemuel were, to not see what is happening to the corporate church?

In Third Nephi, chapter 27, Christ outlines the criteria for the church to be His. In addition to being called by His Name and tuned to His gospel, He requires that the church ‘show forth the works of the Father’.’ He also warns us that ( verse 11):

If the church “is built upon the works of men, or upon the works of the devil, verily I say unto you they have joy in their works for a season, and by and by the end cometh, and they are hewn down and cast into the fire, from whence there is no return.”

Assuming what I described above, are we taking joy in the works of men? Is the season coming to a close?

Individual Apostasy

Just as there could be markers of apostasy for the corporate entity, there are also similar markers for us as individuals. Apostasy comes from the Greek meaning ‘to stand away,’ and means today that one departs from one’s religion or principles. Subtle apostasy would have us focus our time, talents, and energy on items at ‘appear’ to be important but are really only invalid substitutes for the real thing.

In Matthew 23, we read:

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”

Is it possible that we, today, can do many wonderful works, yet be rejected by Christ? I submit that this substitution of works instead of seeking to be known by Christ represents the type of apostasy that threatens us today. Can we assume that attending the temple, doing our home teaching,  fulfilling our callings and all the other various and sundry activities we are called upon to do in the church today can substitute for having a relationship with Christ sufficient to be ‘known’ by Him?

In the times of the Middle Ages, the tradition of visiting relics and defined sacred sites became very important. Martin Luther, himself, tells of his effort to climb the 200+ steps of a holy site on his knees, reciting a prayer on each step in hopes of currying favor with God. Do we exert such an outward effort in hopes that God will recognize our sacrifice? At the same time, do we ignore the fundamental gospel steps of repentance, faith, baptism by water followed by baptism by fire and the Holy Ghost?

As I sat in fast and testimony meeting last week, I was struck by the ‘testimony’ of an older gentleman who talked of his challenges in keeping his business solvent. He described a discussion with his brother where he was told: “I pay my tithing; I have no reason to worry.” Has tithing become simply a modern day equivalent of the Holy Roman Church’s indulgences? Is there an implied promise that if we pay our money to the church we will receive some level of protection? I am not proposing that anyone who pays tithing is in apostasy. My intent is to raise the concern that substituting tithing for the true meaning of the gospel, to bring us to Christ, will not bring us to our intended goal – His kingdom.

Can the LDS Church fail? Yes, if it allows money, politics and power to supplant the ministry of the gospel. Can we as individuals fail? Yes, if we allow the works of men to replace a relationship with Christ.

These are the questions we must answer for ourselves:

Have I received a remission of my sins? See 2 Nephi 31:17-18,

Have I been sanctified? See 3 Nephi 27:20-21

Have I been cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost that I may be numbered among the people of the Church of Christ? See Moroni 6:1-4

Once we have prepared our hearts then we turn our effort toward our neighbors. Have we accomplished our personal preparation such that we can assist our brothers and sisters with a pure heart? See Mosiah 4:11-30

Are we, as Laman, defining our own criteria for righteousness?

What think ye?

Breaking News: Joseph Smith’s Daguerrotype is scanned and uploaded

This is to let all visitors to this blog know that I have come across one of the (supposedly lost) photocopies I made of a possible/probable daguerrotype of Joseph Smith that I discovered around seven years ago. Prior to today, the only LDS who had seen this daguerrotype were myself and the three people I showed it to seven years ago. Spread the word, this may be the missing daguerreotype of the Prophet that was apparently recorded to have been taken of him. You can see the images and read the account of how I discovered it by clicking the following link:

Joseph Smith’s Daguerrotype – An Appeal for Help

Next Joseph Smith article: What if…the Lord brought the Prophet Joseph Smith back from the dead to lead the church?

Previous Joseph Smith article: Romans 13: 1-7 and Joseph Smith

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Scriptural Discussion #14: Sacramental Prayers—Church Should Be Kneeling During


Moroni said, “And they did kneel down with the church, and pray to the Father in the name of Christ, saying:” (Moroni 4: 2)

The Lord said, “And the elder or priest shall administer it; and after this manner shall he administer it—he shall kneel with the church and call upon the Father in solemn prayer, saying:” (D&C 20: 76)


Next Scriptural Discussion: #15 ABORTION

Previous Scriptural Discussion: #13 ANGER AND INSULTS—ARE FORBIDDEN

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Joseph Smith’s Daguerreotype – An Appeal for Help

Joseph Smith Daguerreotype (Low-Res Color)

Uploaded Images

I present three resolutions of the same image for your viewing pleasure. Click the images or links below, which will open up a new page with a larger image, then click the larger image, wait for it to load, and then you can click the image again to make it even larger. The three resolutions to choose from are 200 dpi, 300 dpi and 600 dpi.

First the 200 dpi scan:

Joseph Smith Daguerrotype (BW scan) 200 dpi
Click Above Thumbnail (or this link) to View the 592 Kb (200 dpi) Image

Next, the 300 dpi scan:

Joseph Smith Daguerrotype (BW scan) 300 dpi

Click Above Thumbnail (or this link) to View the 1 Mb (300 dpi) Image

Finally, the 600 dpi scan:

Click This Link to View the 5 Mb (600 dpi) Image

Compare this image to a frontal view of Joseph Smith’s death mask. Also compare it to an angled view of the death mask.  Here’s a side-by-side comparison:

A color photograph of the daguerreotype is found in the book, Retratos Quase Inocentes. The actual daguerreotype is at the Paulista Museum of the University of Sao Paolo, Brazil.

Original Post Follows

Years ago I was working at a book distributor of Latin American art books as a cataloger. What this meant was that virtually every book that came in went through my hands first. Now, I know both English and Spanish, so that job wasn’t too hard, but occasionally, we’d get a book from Brazil, which, of course, was written in Portuguese.

One (fateful?) day, a curious book was placed in my hands. It was a Brazilian book about a museum exhibition of early daguerrotypes. (Daguerrotypes were an early type of photograph.) I flipped through the pages to get a feel for the book, which had, of course, lots of pictures, before I started writing my summary of its contents. I admit, the old pictures were interesting to look at and I may have taken more time than I should have, going through each and every page instead of skipping here and there, but it turned out to be just the thing I needed to do. I turned a page and suddenly was face-to-face with the strangest daguerrotype I had ever seen.

Unlike the other pictures, which were placed several to a page and had very short text descriptions, this particular daguerrotype was placed on the entire left-hand page and the author of the book used the entire opposite page to write about it. It was obvious that this daguerrotype was considered worthy of more notice than the others. And it did stand out, for it was colorized and set into a frame with a hinged cover, so that it could be closed and carried around and then flipped open to show to people. But the most startling aspect of it was that it appeared to be Joseph Smith himself.

I tried my best to read the Portuguese text (using my knowledge of Spanish) and determined that the daguerrotype was acquired from New York in 1844, but nothing else was known about it or its subject. The author of the book proceeded to analyze the pose, dress and face of the man and the exquisite sharpness and quality of the daguerrotype (it was the best preserved of all those in the book), plus the way it was framed, etc., and he came to the conclusion that the man must have thought he was something really special and had a commanding look about him. Perhaps he was a congressman or someone else in authority, etc.

I made (not very good) photocopies of the page on the company copier, took them home, and showed them to a family member, to see what she thought. She thought it did look like Smith. I then contacted Salt Lake City, calling them up, and told them what I had found and what I thought it might be. The lady I spoke to said that they were no longer acquiring that type of item and weren’t interested. She suggested I go through my local leadership. So, I took the photocopies I had made and showed them to my bishop, asking him who it looked like. He said it looked like one of the Smith brothers. I told him I thought it was Joseph and that it should be followed up, but that Salt Lake wanted nothing from me and said to go through the local leadership. He said to take the copies to his first counselor and he’d take care of it. I took the copies to the first counselor and left it at that. Months later I approached the first counselor and asked what happened. He didn’t recall the incident and didn’t have the copies! (The bishop had forgotten about it, too.) By this time, though, the book had been sold and I couldn’t make more copies (and I had not saved a copy for myself.)

Nevertheless, I had kept the name and info of the book in question, for I knew that the daguerrotype was sitting in someone’s collection somewhere in Brazil. I even tried contacting Brazilian saints to go and check out the exhibition and find out information about it, but could not make contact with anyone willing.

I shelved the whole thing, finally, figuring that if church headquarters and local leadership wasn’t interested in it, then that’s that. At least I had gotten a good look at the prophet, if it was, indeed, him.

Recently, though, I found out that it was being exhibited again in a Brazilian museum. However, I cannot contact the museum myself, as I do not know Portuguese. If, therefore, you want to help, and you know Portuguese, please translate the following email for me, which I will send along:

Subject: Inquiry about one of your exhibits

Body of Message: To the Director of the Museu Paulista da Universidade de São Paulo:

Hello! I’d like to make an inquiry about the Coleção Carlos Eugênio Marcondes de Moura (retratos fotográficos). I have read the book Retratos Quase Inocentes by Carlos Eugenio M. de Moura and I noticed that one of the daguerrotypes (early type of photograph) was of an unknown individual whose likeness very much resembles that of Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon religion (the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.) That I know of, there is no known daguerrotype of Joseph Smith, but you may have in your collection the only one of him. The daguerrotype in question came out of New York City around the year 1844, according to Carlos Eugenio’s book, and was colorized.

I am writing to you to alert you to this possibility, as, if it is indeed of Joseph Smith, you are sitting on a very rare artifact that the Mormon church would be extremely interested in. Please confirm that you do have the daguerrotype in question in your collection.

Thank you.

Addendum – Saturday, March 22, 2008

A couple of days ago I stumbled upon a blog post entitled, Is this Joseph Smith?, which contains a quote by historian Will Bagley, who said, “Smith recorded having his picture taken in 1844.” Now, I wasn’t aware that Joseph Smith wrote down that he got his picture taken in 1844. I find the fact that the daguerreotype I saw came out of New York in 1844 to be awfully coincidental.

Addendum – Monday, March 24, 2008

I just got off the phone with Cecilia Oliveira of the Paulista Museum of the University of Sao Paulo. She spoke Spanish, thankfully, and I was able to tell her that I believed I could name the unknown man in one of the portraits found in the book Retratos Quase Inocentes. She told me to email her and explain everything, which I did. Apparently, the exhibit is no longer at the museum. I am sure, though, that she can easily locate the portrait. I’ll post a report of whatever I receive from her when I get it.

In case anyone wants to do their own investigative work, and especially if you know Portuguese, the number to the museum is + 55 + 11 + 6165 – 8000 (Country Code = 55, City Code = 11, Number = 6165 – 8000.) Their email address is

There is a one hour difference in time between New York and Sao Paolo. (When it is 9 a.m. in New York, it is 10 a.m. in Sao Paolo.) The museum is open from at 9 a.m. – 4: 45 p.m. Good luck.

Addendum – Monday, March 24, 2008

Okay, as I’m now in the mindset of tracking down this daguerrotype and showing it to the church, at least to those who visit this page, I’ve found the web site of Carlos Eugenio M. de Moura. He didn’t used to have a web site, but now he does. So, I just now dropped him an email and we’ll see if I get any response…

Addendum – Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Mr. Moura was gracious enough to respond to my email. It turns out he speaks English. He has confirmed that the daguerrotype in question is, in fact, at the Museu Paulista – Universidade de São Paulo. He also gave me information on where and when he acquired it. He has also given me the name of the person at the museum in charge of the collection. I guess I’ll be making another phone call to Brazil tomorrow…

Addendum – Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Apparently, not all of the photocopies I made were lost. There was one copy that I showed (and apparently gave) to my mother. When I talked to her today about that picture I showed her years ago, she said that she still had it and proceeded to go to a file cabinet and produce the saved photocopy. It was filed under “Special Papers.”

I am now producing scanned images of the photocopy, which you can view at the top of this article. Hopefully, the museum will send me a color scan of the original. If and when I get it, I’ll upload it. Still, you should be able to tell a lot from what you see here.

One correction: upon looking over the photocopy today, I discovered that my recollection of the daguerreotype coming out of New York in 1844 was off by one year. It actually left New York in 1845.

Although I have something to go on to track down the history of the daguerrotype, thanks to Mr. Moura, without a provenance, the Church Historical Department probably won’t even look at it, according to some opinions. However, there may be a way around this. If you view the above images, and think it may be the missing picture of the Prophet, write, call, email or visit in person the Church Historical Department, historians, your bishop, stake president and everyone. If they are flooded with “demands” of making an inquiry and investigation about this particular image, which it might be easy to trace, they may assign someone to track it down and we can find out if it is, indeed, the Prophet.

Addendum – Friday, March 28, 2008

The Church Historical Archives – I arranged to have the 600 dpi scan emailed to the church historical archive on the 26th and this time the lady on the phone was interested in receiving the image. As yet, though, the archive has not emailed back a response.

Museu Paulista – Universidade de São Paulo – Cecilia Oliveira of the museum never responded to the emails that I sent her per her request. However, on the 27th (yesterday) I sent a detailed email to the contact person at the museum that Mr. Moura gave me, again asking for a color scan either to be sent to me or posted on the museum web site. Today I received an email response. They will be sending me a “reference copy of this portrait (low resolution), in the next week, and also the museum proceedings for having a copy and the rights for uses.”

Addendum – Monday, April 7, 2008

This afternoon I sent an email to the curator at the museum because I hadn’t received the promised low-res color scan. Tonight I received a response along with the expected image. Apparently, though, I have to email someone else to learn how to buy a high resolution image and also the rules for usage.

I also learned that the Moura Daguerreotype (which is what I will call it from now on) was purchased by the museum in 2003, along with Mr. Moura’s entire collection. It does not appear that the museum has done any inspection of the daguerreotype to determine if there is anything written on it, as they just thought of it as an anonymous daguerreotype portrait until I mentioned its similarity to J.S. Now they are very interested in learning its origins (understandably) and wish to be informed of any progress in this area.

Addendum – Tuesday, April 8, 2008

I sent an email yesterday inquiring about a high-res scan and rules of usage, but I still haven’t received a response, so I’m going to assume that permission was already granted to post the low-res color scan on a web site, which I’ve now done at the top of this post. As I wasn’t prohibited from doing so and as they understood that that was my intention, this is the assumption I’m going on. If it turns out I’m wrong, I’ll remove it.

Addendum – Monday, April 14, 2008

The museum is very keen on finding out the origins of the daguerreotype. They are going to analyze it and photograph it in high resolution to determine if there are any markings on it, whatsoever. They plan on providing me a scan of their photographs. (It may cost me some money, though.)

Mr. Moura has said that he acquired the daguerreotype from the Armory Show in New York City in 1966. He paid 5 or 10 dollars for it. He looked it over himself, but did not see any maker’s marks on it. By comparison with other daguerreotypes, and based on the hair style, collar, suit, etc., he put it at circa 1845. As he acquired it from New York City, it is listed as: New York, c. 1845. He also has confirmed that it is an original daguerreotype, not a copy.

Addendum – Friday, April 25, 2008

The museum sent me an email tonight. It is going to cost me some dough to get them to make a high resolution scan of the daguerreotype. The email was kind of in broken English, so I’m not really sure whether I need to send $75 USD or $50 USD, transferred to their bank account. It will be R$ 120.00. That much I know. I’m not ready to dish out that dough right now. If anyone wants to put forth the money, let me know and I’ll give you the museum contact information that I have and you can obtain a high-res image to post on the Internet. The permissions will be very restrictive: just putting it on a web site page, not in an article or in a book. If someone comes forth and does this, I’ll link to the image from this blog.

Addendum – Monday, June 23, 2008

As I’m now ready to pay for a high-res scan of the dag, I emailed the museum last week and also telephoned, but no one responded to my email, nor was I able to get anyone who spoke English or Spanish on the phone.  I will continue to resend the email until I finally get a response.

Addendum – Thursday, June 26, 2008

Yesterday I received an email from the museum contact.  She stated that she has been on vacation (and still is) and hasn’t been checking her emails.  As I had made some requests concerning the high resolution scan, she indicated that she didn’t know the answer to those questions, but would ask those who did know and forward their responses to me.  I’ll post more info as I get it.

Next Joseph Smith article: Romans 13: 1-7 and Joseph Smith

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