Bushman on the Priesthood Restoration

Priesthood Restoration Intro Quote

CES Letter Core Question

Does respected historian Richard Bushman think the Priesthood restoration is a fabrication?

The late appearance of these accounts raises the possibility of later fabrication.

CES Letter, Page 80

The CES Letter quotes a question from Richard Bushman but not the answers that he provides.  

The CES Letter takes Bushman out of context to give the appearance that Bushman doubts the veracity of Joseph and Oliver’s accounts of the priesthood restoration.

Bushman provides counterpoints and suggestions, even in the same paragraph, for why Joseph and Oliver may have been reticent to share their heavenly visitations openly. Bushman explained:

“His reticence may have shown a fear of disbelief. Although obscure, Joseph was proud. He did not like to appear the fool. Or he may have felt the visions were too sacred to be discussed openly. They were better kept to himself. The late appearance of these accounts raises the possibility of later fabrication. Did Joseph add the stories of angels to embellish his early history and make himself more of a visionary? If so, he made little of the occurrence. Cowdery was the first to recount the story of John’s appearance, not Joseph himself. In an 1834 Church newspaper, Cowdery exulted in his still fresh memory of the experience. “On a sudden, as from the midst of eternity, the voice of the Redeemer spake peace unto us, while the vail was parted and the angel of God came down clothed with glory, and delivered the anxiously looked for message, and the keys of the gospel of repentance!” When Joseph described John’s visit, he was much more plainspoken. Moreover, he inserted the story into a history composed in 1838 but not published until 1842. It circulated without fanfare, more like a refurbished memory than a triumphant announcement.” (Richard Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling, 75; emphasis added.)

 Bushman offers possible reasons for why Joseph kept the details of his visit by ancient Prophets to himself for several years. He may have feared that nobody would believe him (a completely reasonable fear), or he may have felt that the visions were too sacred to be discussed openly. His actions in this regard are not unlike his previous actions regarding the First Vision, which he only reluctantly shared. Moreover, Bushman critiques the notion that Joseph invented the events of the priesthood restoration “to embellish” his story because, in his later retellings, Joseph doesn’t appear to have ever actually used the story in that way.