Before 1832 & David Whitmer's Recollection
CES Letter Core Question
There is no historical document of the priesthood restoration prior to 1832. Does this mean it's a fabrication?
LDS historian and scholar, Richard Bushman, acknowledges this in Rough Stone Rolling 2:
Summarizing the key events in his religious life in an 1830 statement, he mentioned translation but said nothing about the restoration of priesthood or the visit of an angel. The first compilation of revelations in 1833 also omitted an account of John the Baptist. David Whitmer later told an interviewer he had heard nothing of John the Baptist until four years after the Church’s organization. Not until writing in his 1832 history did Joseph include ‘reception of the holy Priesthood by the ministering of angels to administer the letter of the Gospel’ among the cardinal events of his history, a glancing reference at best...The late appearance of these accounts raises the possibility of later fabrication.
Why did it take 3 plus years for Joseph or Oliver to tell members of the Church about the restoration of the priesthood under the hands of John the Baptist and Peter, James, and John?
David Whitmer, one of the witnesses to the Book of Mormon, had this to say about the Priesthood restoration:
I never heard that an Angel had ordained Joseph and Oliver to the Aaronic Priesthood until the year 1834[,] 5, or 6 – in Ohio...I do not believe that John the Baptist ever ordained Joseph and Oliver...
CES Letter, Page 81
It is impossible to prove something did not happen but The CES Letter seems committed to a rigid and narrow interpretation regarding the chronology of the restoration of the priesthood that is not justified and contradicts several supportive evidences.
All we can know is when Oliver and/or Joseph first committed the details of the Priesthood Restoration to publication. We can’t know when they first verbally described the event.
An April 1830, revelatory document known as the “Articles and Covenants" reads in part: “Joseph Smith Jr., who was called of God and ordained an apostle of Jesus Christ, an elder of the church, and also to Oliver Cowdery, who was also called of God an apostle of Jesus Christ, and elder of the church, and ordained under his hand…” (emphasis added). Only an apostle could ordain another apostle. This is strong support that Peter, James, and John had appeared and ordained them prior to this time.
There is compelling evidence from other very early secondary and tertiary sources that Joseph and Oliver had described the restoration of the priesthood to others.
If the events of the priesthood restoration were inventions from the minds of Joseph and Oliver, why did Oliver remain steadfast in his conviction of their reality even after leaving the church?
Priesthood power and authority was taught many times by Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery prior to 1830, whether through their publication of the Book of Mormon or through subsequent revelations.
David Whitmer’s recollection is quite late, and it very well may be that Joseph and Oliver did not tell him for unknown reasons.