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Prophetic AuthorityDemocratic Hierarchy and the Mormon Priesthood$
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Michael Hubbard MacKay

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780252043017

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.5622/illinois/9780252043017.001.0001

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Authority, Baptism, and Angelic Restoration

Authority, Baptism, and Angelic Restoration

(p.24) 2 Authority, Baptism, and Angelic Restoration
Prophetic Authority

Michael Hubbard MacKay

University of Illinois Press

This chapter shows how the evolving narrative about Smith receiving the power to baptize sheds light on his authoritative role in Mormonism. Analyzing Mormon baptism is a great first example of how Smith used his prophetic voice to create religious authority, in which he connected himself to God experientially, defined the meaning of baptism through the restoration scripture of the Book of Mormon, and built an influential restoration narrative in which a heavenly figure directly conferred the authority to baptize. Smith eventually claimed that his authority derived from a direct, divine source: angels, as understood through his revelations. The angels who authorized him were not, this time, those with an ancient American past like Moroni, but rather beings taken from the familiar New Testament narrative. Within this context of restoration, baptismal authority was first tied to a narrative involving John the Baptist, from which began Smith’s reconstruction of Christ’s ancient church. The example of how Smith received the authority to baptize demonstrates how his prophetic voice began to build a distinct Mormon religious authority almost immediately. His hierarchical position was bolstered and he quickly offered his authority to lay believers, making the first step toward a democratic hierarchy.

Keywords:   Baptism, Authority, Religious Authority, Church, Book of Mormon, Revelation, Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, Prophet, Mormon Prophet

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