What is meant when we speak of the keys of the priesthood? Priesthood keys are the authority to direct the work of God on earth today. Jesus Christ holds all priesthood keys, but He bestows various keys on various priesthood leaders. The necessary “keys of this dispensation” were conferred upon the Prophet Joseph Smith (see Doctrine and Covenants 110:16). Today those same keys are held by the members of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “Priesthood keys are also given to the Presidency of the Seventy; presidents of temples, missions, stakes, and districts; bishops; branch presidents; and quorum presidents – including Aaronic Priesthood quorum presidents.”
Last month in General Conference Elder Dallin H. Oaks gave a very informative address on “The Keys and Authority of the Priesthood.” I found his address very informative. I encourage you to read the entire talk.
“At this conference we have seen the release of some faithful brothers, and we have sustained the callings of others. In this rotation – so familiar in the Church – we do not `step down’ when we are released, and we do not `step up’ when we are called. There is no `up or down’ in the service of the Lord. There is only `forward or backward,’ and that difference depends on how we accept and act upon our releases and our callings. I once presided at the release of a young stake president who had given fine service for nine years and was now rejoicing in his release and in the new calling he and his wife had just received. They were called to be the nursery leaders in their ward. Only in this Church would that be seen as equally honorable!
“While addressing a women’s conference, Relief Society general president Linda K. Burton said, `We hope to instill within each of us a greater desire to better understand the priesthood.’ That need applies to all of us, and I will pursue it by speaking of the keys and authority of the priesthood. Since these subjects are of equal concern to men and to women, I am pleased that these proceedings are broadcast and published for all members of the Church. Priesthood power blesses all of us. Priesthood keys direct women as well as men, and priesthood ordinances and priesthood authority pertain to women as well as men….
“Ultimately, all keys of the priesthood are held by the Lord Jesus Christ, whose priesthood it is. He is the one who determines what keys are delegated to mortals and how those keys will be used. We are accustomed to thinking that all keys of the priesthood were conferred on Joseph Smith in the Kirtland Temple, but the scripture states that all that was conferred there were `the keys of this dispensation” (Doctrine and Covenants 110:16). At general conference many years ago, President Spencer W. Kimball reminded us that there are other priesthood keys that have not been given to man on the earth, including the keys of creation and resurrection….
“I come now to the subject of priesthood authority. I begin with the three principles just discussed: (1) priesthood is the power of God delegated to man to act for the salvation of the human family, (2) priesthood authority is governed by priesthood holders who hold priesthood keys, and (3) since the scriptures state that `all other authorities [and] offices in the church are appendages to this [Melchizedek] priesthood’ (Doctrine and Covenants 107:5), all that is done under the direction of those priesthood keys is done with priesthood authority….
“The Lord has directed that only men will be ordained to offices in the priesthood. But, as various Church leaders have emphasized, men are not `the priesthood.’ Men hold the priesthood, with a sacred duty to use it for the blessing of all of the children of God. The greatest power God has given to His sons cannot be exercised without the companionship of one of His daughters, because only to His daughters has God given the power `to be a creator of bodies … so that God’s design and the Great Plan might meet fruition.’ Those are the words of President J. Reuben Clark.
“He continued: `This is the place of our wives and of our mothers in the Eternal Plan. They are not bearers of the Priesthood; they are not charged with carrying out the duties and functions of the Priesthood; nor are they laden with its responsibilities; they are builders and organizers of the Priesthood; and partakers of its blessings, possessing the complement of the Priesthood powers and possessing a function as divinely called, as eternally important in its place as the Priesthood itself.’
“In those inspired words, President Clark was speaking of the family. As stated in the family proclamation, the father presides in the family and he and the mother have separate responsibilities, but they are `obligated to help one another as equal partners.’ Some years before the family proclamation, President Spencer W. Kimball gave this inspired explanation: `When we speak of marriage as a partnership, let us speak of marriage as a full partnership. We do not want our LDS women to be silent or limited partners in that eternal assignment! Please be a contributing or full partner.’
“In the eyes of God, whether in the Church or in the family, women and men are equal, with different responsibilities.
“I close with some truths about the blessings of the priesthood. Unlike priesthood keys and priesthood ordinations, the blessings of the priesthood are available to women and to men on the same terms. The gift of the Holy Ghost and the blessings of the temple are familiar illustrations of this truth….”
I had the blessing of listening to Elder Oaks make his presentation to the brethren of the priesthood. As he spoke, I cheered. I love the way he explained priesthood keys, priesthood authority, and priesthood blessings. His explanation was clear and unmistakable. I am personally grateful that I have access to priesthood ordinations and priesthood blessings without the responsibilities and duties of actually bearing the priesthood. I consider this fact a very real blessing in the lives of all daughters of God.