Renovation and dedication are complete for the Priesthood Restoration Site—an area to which The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ascribes tremendous spiritual and historic significance.
Russell M. Nelson, president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, formally dedicated the site Saturday, September 19, 2015, in Oakland Township (formerly known as Harmony). Some of the site’s renovations include the following:
- A new trail system that connects the historic area to the visitors’ center, including paths into the woods where the Church believes the priesthood (the power and authority of God delegated to man on earth) was restored.
- Improved access to the baptismal site at the Susquehanna River, where Church founder Joseph Smith and his scriptural scribe Oliver Cowdery were baptized.
- Reconstructed homes of Joseph and Emma Smith and Isaac and Elizabeth Hale, Emma’s parents.
- Reproduced sculptures (the originals are on Temple Square in Salt Lake City) of John the Baptist and Peter, James and John giving Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery the Aaronicand Melchizedek priesthoods.
- A new chapel reflective of the historic period, which will meet the needs of the local Mormon congregation.
- Slight realignment of a section of Highway 171 for improved safety.
- A 25-minute film in the new visitors’ center that introduces guests to the area’s historic events.
In remarks prior to his dedicatory prayer, President Nelson explained that it was in this area that Joseph Smith received the priesthood, translated most of the Book of Mormon and received several additional revelations now canonized as scripture.
“Harmony provided Joseph with spiritual solitude and protection, allowing him to focus on the translation of the Book of Mormon,” President Nelson said. “Through this period, the Lord tutored Joseph in his divine role as prophet, seer, and revelator. Receiving the priesthood empowered Joseph Smith to function fully as the Prophet of this last dispensation. Here he worked during a remarkable and formative season of translation, revelation, and restoration.”
Most of the Book of Mormon translation occurred in Harmony in less than three months—at a rate of six to eight manuscript pages translated per day. The restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood took place nearby on May 15, 1829, as Joseph Smith and his scribe Oliver Cowdery prayed for answers to questions that came up while translating the Book of Mormon. And 15 sections of the Doctrine and Covenants (part of the Church’s scriptural canon, along with the Bible and Book of Mormon) were received in Harmony.
Civic and interfaith leaders were invited to attend Saturday’s dedication—a symbol of the Church’s desire for mutual understanding with the community and those of differing beliefs.
“This site helps us establish friendships with the community and helps others know about our core beliefs,” said Mark Lusvardi, director of public programs for the Church’s Missionary Department. “We hope people of all faiths will bring all the good they have and see if we can add to it and help them feel closer to the Savior Jesus Christ.”
Pennsylvania Rep. Sandra Major applauded all those involved in the restoration project and said the site is a welcome addition to the community and state.
Noting that historic buildings are often torn down and grounds subsequently fall into disrepair, she said it is “such a welcome sight to see the time and care that was put into rebuilding this sacred, historical, significant area for generations of people to visit. Historical restoration is vital to the preservation of our roots, providing us a glimpse of where we started and progressed to over the years. I look forward to watching a strong bond grow between the surrounding communities and the Priesthood Restoration Site. ”
Visit LDS.org for the Priesthood Restoration Site location and hours.