W. Paul Reeve, initial draft author of the Race and Priesthood gospel topics essay documented Joseph F. Smith’s “memory change” on Able’s ordination (here):

  • In 1879 he defended Able’s priesthood as valid.
  • In 1895 he reminded LDS leaders that Able was ordained to the priesthood “at Kirtland under the direction of the Prophet Joseph Smith.”
  • In 1904 he called Able’s ordination a mistake that “was never corrected.”
  • In 1908, he claimed that Able’s priesthood “ordination was declared null and void by the Prophet [Joseph Smith] himself.”

In 1879, at the request of John Taylor, Apostle Joseph F. Fmith interviewed Elijah Able regarding his request to receive the endowment and be sealed to his wife that year. Joseph F. Smith reported back to Taylor:

the Prophet Joseph told him [Able] he was entitled to the priesthood.

The discovery of a new 1879 document in Joseph F. Smith’s own handwriting underscores Joseph F. Smith’s thoughts on the the 1879 communication:

Joseph said he was entitled to the Priesthood and all the blessings.

Reeve concludes his post introducing this newly discovered document:

This new document is clear refutation of Joseph F. Smith’s 1908 statement that Joseph Smith declared Elijah Able’s priesthood “null and void.” And that clear refutation is in Joseph F. Smith’s own handwriting.


Why did Joseph F. Smith’s position change over time? Did he forget his previous assessment, or did he fail to record details which were relevant to his eventual reversal? Did he happen upon additional data or heresay in the intervening years or did he fabricate—intentionally or somehow unintentionally—Joseph’s declaration that Able’s priesthood was “null and void”? It is difficult to say with any certainty, but it does seem that Joseph F. Smith’s views on the topic were completely reversed between 1879 and 1908.

prompted to summarize the issue by /u/fuzzy_thoughts comment here

posted online here