“A License Liberty Power & Authority,” License, , Seneca Co., NY, for , 9 June 1830; handwriting of ; signatures of JS and ; one page; JS Collection, CHL.
Single leaf measuring 10¼ × 7¾ inches (26 × 20 cm). The verso has a notation in the handwriting of Joseph F. Smith, who became president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1901: “Rec’d from Cousin | Elias A. Smith | Oct. 8. 1902 | J. F. Smith”. It is unknown when the document was transferred from Joseph F. Smith’s custody to the custody of the Church Historian’s Office.
The following document is a “signifying & proveing” that , one of the six founding members of the church and one of the Eight Witnesses who saw and handled the , was a of the . He was ordained at the church’s first and was among those who received ministerial licenses at this gathering. The duties of a priest, which had been outlined previously, were “to preach, teach, expound, and exhort, and , and administer the , and visit the house of each member, and exhort them to pray vocally and in secret, and also to attend to all family duties, to ordain priests, , and , and to take the lead in meetings; but none of these offices is he to do when there is an present, but in all cases is to assist the elder, &c.” The church’s foundational document, “Articles and Covenants,” gave priests more authority than teachers and deacons but less than elders.
Given to signifying & proveing that he is a of this established & regularly Organized in these last days AD 1830 on the 6th. day of April All of which has been done by the will of God the Father according to his holy calling & the gift & power of the Holy Ghost agreeable to the revelations of Jesus Christ given to Joseph Smith Jun. the of the Church signifying that he has been & received into the Church according to the Articles & Covenants of the Church & under the hand of who is an Apostle of our Lord an of the Church
(Joseph Smith Jr first Elder
( Second Elder
Given to the Bearer in held in Seneca County NY June 9th 1830 [p. ]
The title of the license, “A License Liberty Power & Authority,” reflects other contemporary legal language, including that found in the New York laws for incorporating religious societies. (An Act to Provide for the Incorporation of Religious Societies [5 Apr. 1813], Laws of the State of New-York , vol. 2, pp. 212–219; see also An Act Supplementary to the Act, Entitled “An Act to Provide for the Incorporation of Religious Societies,” Passed April 5th, 1813 [12 Apr. 1822], Laws of the State of New-York , chap. 187, p. 187.)
Laws of the State of New-York, Revised and Passed at the Thirty-Sixth Session of the Legislature, With Marginal Notes and References. 2 Vols. Albany: H. C. Southwick and Company, 1813.
When incarcerated in Canandaigua, New York, for debt several months later, Joseph Smith Sr. discussed JS’s revelations with another inmate and proclaimed his own authority to officiate as a minister. The inmate, Eli Bruce, recorded in his journal for 5 November 1830, “The old man avers that he is commissioned by God to baptize and preach this new doctrine.” (Morris, Masonic Martyr, 267; see also Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1845, 179–186.)
Morris, Rob. The Masonic Martyr. The Biography of Eli Bruce, Sheriff of Niagara County, New York, Who, for His Attachment to the Principles of Masonry, and His Fidelity to His Trust, Was Imprisoned Twenty-Eight Months in the Canandaigua Jail. Louisville, KY: Morris and Monsarrat, 1861.
TEXT: A thick black ink smudge is found below Oliver Cowdery’s signature, running about the length of his name. Cowdery presumably made the smudge to ensure that no other signatures were added below his.