I learned a lot about priesthood authority, priesthood keys, and priesthood power this week as I studied the fifth Article of Faith. Articles of Faith 1:5 states: “We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.” The two main doctrines contained in this Article of Faith are priesthood authority and priesthood keys.
The lesson material for this week provided three separate statements about the priesthood authority. I combined the three into the following: “The priesthood is the eternal power and authority of God” (True to the Faith) given to worthy male members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to bring the blessings of the priesthood to all people.” I am amazed at the number of sisters in the Church who feel left out because they do not hold the priesthood. I look at the situation a bit differently: I carry enough responsibility in my family and Church callings that I do not desire to carry priesthood responsibility too. In fact, I have all the blessings of the priesthood without any of the responsibilities that a priesthood holder does. I believe that I have the best of both worlds.
Joseph Smith-History 1:68-72 tells us that John the Baptist ordained Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery to the Aaronic Priesthood on May 15, 1829. This priesthood includes “the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins” (verse 69). John told them that he acted under the authority of Peter, James, and John and that the Aaronic Priesthood would not be taken from the earth until the sons of Levi make an offering to the Lord in righteousness. Joseph and Oliver baptized each other but could not receive the gift of the Holy Ghost because that authority is not part of the Aaronic Priesthood. The power and authority to bestow the gift of the Holy Ghost comes through the Melchizedek Priesthood.
An article titled “A House for Our God” gave some interesting perspectives about the Kirtland Temple. For one thing, I did not previously realize that this temple took so long to build. Joseph Smith was rebuked on June 1, 1833, for disobedience to a commandment five months earlier to build it, and the Kirtland Temple was dedicated on March 27, 1836. This means that the temple took more than three years to build. Another insight I gained from this article is that the story about the Saints “sacrificing” their china to make the temple shine is not true. Yes, broken dishes were added to the stucco, but they were fragments taken from refuse piles and not from the cupboards of the sisters. In other words, they were dishes that were already broken. Another insight for me is that the Lord did not specify everything about the temple. He specified the dimensions and functions of the building and some of aspects about its appearance, but he left other details to the leaders and builders to determine by their experience and ideas.
“A House for Our God” from Revelations in Context was enlightening on several levels. I was originally surprised that the Saints took so long to build the Kirtland Temple. Then I read where the Saints thought that they were building something more like a schoolhouse than a temple. It took chastisement from the Lord to put them on the right track. I wonder how often I receive revelation and do not understand the importance of it. I could be building “schoolhouses” instead of “temples” in numerous areas of my life!
In studying D&C 84:6-43 this week, I noticed several things that I did not remember seeing previously. The thing that I noticed was that the line of the Melchizedek Priesthood was given from Moses to Adam. We are told that this priesthood is without beginning or end and that another priesthood was bestowed on Aaron and his posterity. Verse 20 tells us that the power of godliness is in the priesthood ordinances and that “no man can see the face of God, even the Father and live” without the power of godliness. This scripture teaches us that Moses tried to prepare the Israelites to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood, but they hardened their hearts. When Moses was taken out of their midst, the Melchizedek Priesthood was also taken. This means that the Israelites were left without the ordinances that bring the power of godliness.
This scripture also teaches that John the Baptist was ordained to the priesthood when he was eight days old and baptized in his childhood. It supports the Brethren in their decision to allow young men to be ordained to the Aaronic Priesthood at age 11 rather than wait until age 12 because there apparently is no exact age to be ordained. However, John must have been 8 years old when he was baptized because there is a designated “age of accountability” before one can be baptized.
Every man who holds the Melchizedek Priesthood has the power and the authority to use that priesthood. However, the keys of the priesthood are held by specific individuals. Keys are held by the presidents of the Deacons Quorum, the Teachers Quorum, and the Elders Quorum. The Bishop holds the keys to the Priests Quorum and the ward, and the Stake President holds the keys to the High Priests Quorum and the stake. The Prophet and President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints holds all the priesthood keys that have been restored to earth. The person holding the keys designates how the other members of a quorum will use their power and authority. For example, a father who is a member of the Elders Quorum has the power and authority to baptize his child; however, he must receive permission from the Bishop to perform the baptism. While priesthood authority and priesthood keys must be bestowed upon a man, his priesthood power depends on his personal righteousness.