Joseph Smith was a unique individual, differing from every other religious leader in Christian history. Joseph’s brother, Hyrum Smith, once observed, “There were prophets before, but Joseph has the spirit and power of all the prophets” (History of the Church, 6:346).
President George Q. Cannon later explained why this is so. As head of the final dispensation—which Paul described as the “dispensation of the fullness of times in which God would gather together in one all things in Christ” (Ephesians 1:10)—it was Joseph Smith’s right and privilege to be visited and tutored by every former prophet who held priesthood authority and keys.
“He was visited constantly by angels,” President George Q. Cannon said of Joseph Smith. “These various angels, the heads of dispensations, . . . ministered unto him. . . . He had vision after vision in order that his mind might be fully saturated with a knowledge of the things of God, and that he might comprehend the high and holy calling that God had bestowed upon him” (Journal of Discourses, 23:362).
President Cannon further noted: “He, therefore, received the ministration of divers angels—heads of dispensations—from Michael or Adam down to the present time; every man in his time and season coming to him, and all declaring their dispensation, their rights, their keys, their honors. Joseph, the head of this dispensation, Prophet, Seer and Revelator, whom God raised up, received from all these different sources, according to the mind and will of God, and according to the design of God concerning him; he received from all these different sources all the power and all the authority and all keys that were necessary for the building up of the work of God in the last days, and for the accomplishment of His purposes connected with this dispensation. He stands at the head. He is a unique character, differing from every other man in this respect, and excelling every other man” (Journal of Discourses, 23:361).
President John Taylor similarly testified that Joseph received from the leading prophets of all previous gospel dispensations “authority and keys and priesthood power for the carrying out of the great purposes of the Lord in the last days.” Those prophets were “sent and commissioned specially by the Almighty to confer upon him those keys and this authority” (Journal of Discourses, 20:174-175).
President Taylor also noted that the Prophet Joseph was not only conversant with every prophet who officiated at the head of each gospel dispensation, but also with many other angelic ministrants as well: “When Joseph Smith was raised up as a prophet of God, Mormon, Moroni, Nephi and others of the ancient Prophets who formerly lived on this Continent, and Peter and John and others who lived on the Asiatic Continent, came to him and communicated to him certain principles pertaining to the Gospel of the Son of God. Why? Because they held the keys of the various dispensations, and conferred them upon him, and he upon us” (Journal of Discourses, 17:374).
Through the ministry of former apostles and prophets, Joseph Smith came to know the place and role of his ministry in world history. On 12 May 1844, just a few weeks before his death, the Prophet Joseph taught that he “was chosen [to be] … the last and greatest prophet to lay the foundation of God’s work of the seventh dispensation” (The Words of Joseph Smith, comp. and ed. Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, 1980, 370). He learned that “In the days of Noah, God destroyed the world by a flood, and He has promised to destroy it by fire in the last days” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 1938, 337). Lorenzo Snow once overheard the Prophet respond to the question, “Who are you?” with the reply, “Noah came before the flood. I have come before the fire” (Diary of Abraham H. Cannon, entry for 1 January 1892; as cited in An Apostle’s Record: The Journals of Abraham H. Cannon, 2004, 229).
Not only did ancient prophets know of Joseph Smith and prophesy of his mission, he also knew them personally and intimately. Church member Joseph Bates Noble recalled: “I went to Kirtland….where I saw for the first time Joseph
Smith. I went with him to a field and helped him mow some hay. While
There, he gave me much information in relation to the Book of Mormon, etc. He told me that the voices of the angels became so familiar that he knew their names before he saw them” (A Journal or Diary of Joseph Bates Noble 1810-1834, BYU Special Collections Library, typescript, 3).
It’s one thing to read the Bible, and another thing entirely to know and meet its authors. The Prophet Joseph Smith had that privilege. Several different researchers have compiled lists of personages who appeared to the Prophet Joseph Smith, or who were seen by Him in vision. Here is one such list compiled by Brian L. Smith, of heavenly messengers who taught the Prophet Joseph. (Sources for additional lists of personages to who appeared to the Prophet are provided below.)
The following is a list of many of the personages who appeared to Joseph Smith and restored keys or delivered divine instructions.
|Personage||Selected References||Keys given or nature or appearance|
|God the Father||JS-H 1:17; HC 1:5; D&C 76:2||Opened this dispensation introduced the Son.|
|Jesus Christ||JS-H 1:17; HC 1:5–6; D&C 76:20–24; 110:2–10||Called Joseph as a prophet; accepted the temple.|
|Moroni||JS-H 1:30–49, 59; JD 17:374||Tutored Joseph; gave him keys of stick of Ephraim|
|John the Baptist||D&C 13:1; HC 1:39–42||Restored Aaronic Priesthood and its keys.|
|Peter, James, John||D&C 27:12; 128:20; JD 18:326; HC 1:40–42||Restored Melchizedek Priesthood and apostleship and keys.|
|Moses||D&C 110:11; JD 21:65; 23:48||Restored keys of gathering and leading the ten tribes.|
|Elias||D&C 27:6; 110:12; JD 23:48||Committed the “gospel of Abraham”|
|Elijah||D&C 110:13–16||Conferred the sealing power.|
|Adam (Michael)||HC 2:380; 3:388; D&C 128:21; JD 18:326; 21:94; 23:48||Restored keys (perhaps of the presidency over the earth).|
|Noah (Gabriel)||D&C 128:21; JD 21:94; 23:48||Restored keys (perhaps of the power to preach the gospel).|
|Raphael||D&C 128:21||Restored keys (perhaps of the dispensation of Enoch’s day).|
|Various angels||D&C 128:21||Restored keys (all declaring their individual dispensation).|
|Lehi||JD 16:265–66||Ministered to him.|
|Nephi||JD 21:161; 16:266; 17:374||Tutored Joseph; gave him keys.|
|Mormon||JD 17:374||Tutored Joseph; gave him keys.|
|Unnamed angel||D&C 27; HC 1:106||Taught concerning use of wine in the sacrament.|
|Unnamed angel||Life of Heber C. Kimball; Temples of the Most High||Sent to accept dedication of the Kirtland temple.|
|Unnamed angel||Biography and Family Records of Lorenzo Snow||Visited Joseph three times; commanded him to practice plural marriage, as previously revealed by the Lord.|
Although keys, instructions, or information may have been given by some of the personages in the following list, they are generally noted as simply having been seen by Joseph.
|Abel||JD 18:325; HC 3:388|
|Seth||JD 21:94; D&C 107:53–57; HC 3:388|
|Enos||HC 3:388; D&C 107:53–57; HC 3:388|
|Cainan||HC 3:388; D&C 107:53–57|
|Mahalaleel||JD 18:325; D&C 107:53–57; HC 3:388|
|Jared (Bible)||HC 3:388; D&C 107:53–57|
|Enoch||HC 3:388; D&C 107:53–57; JD 21:65|
|Methuselah||JD 18:325; D&C 107:53–57; HC 3:388|
|Eve||Oliver B. Huntington diary|
|Abraham||D&C 27:10; JD 21:94; 23:48|
|Isaac||D&C 27:10; JD 21:94|
|Jacob||D&C 27:10; JD 21:94|
|Joseph, son of Jacob||D&C 27:10|
|Twelve Jewish Apostles (Peter, James, and John already counted above)||JD 21:94 (Names in Matthew 10:1–4, Luke 6:13–16)|
|Twelve Nephite Apostles (Includes the Three Nephites)||JD 21:94 (Names recorded in 3 Nephi 19:4)|
|Zelph the Lamanite||Times & Seasons, 6:788|
|Alvin Smith (Joseph’s deceased brother)||HC 2:380|
|“I saw many angels”||Warren Cowdery’s account of the First Vision|
|Satan and his associates||JSH 1:15–16; D&C 128:20; JD 3:299–30|
Additional Sources for lists of Personages who appeared to the Prophet:
- Brian L. Smith, “Taught from on High”: The Ministry of Angelic Messengers to the Prophet Joseph Smith, in Joseph Smith and the Doctrinal Restoration, BYU Religious Studies Center, 2005, 332–45.
- H. Donl Peterson, in Moroni: Ancient Prophet, Modern Messenger, Cedar Fort Inc., 138-140.
- H. Donl Peterson, Appendix B, in Joseph Smith: The Prophet, The Man, BYU Rel. Studies Center, 1993, 184-186.
- Wayne J. Lewis, Jana Lee Cox, Lee Nelson, 500 Little-Known Facts about Joseph Smith, Cedar Fort Inc., 33-38.
- Hyrum Andrus, Joseph Smith, the Man and the Seer, Deseret Book, 95.