Come Follow Me: D&C 84
The Aaronic Priesthood was restored to the earth by John the Baptist on May 15, 1829. Within a month, the Melchizedek Priesthood was also restored by the ancient apostles Peter, James and John. In the earliest years of the Church, the understanding of priesthood was clearly under development. By 1832, the Lord would reveal key concepts regarding priesthood. This revelation would open the door to temple work, the creation of the Quorum of 12 apostles, the First Presidency, and other major revelations and events regarding priesthood.
For other Christian religions, priesthood is a fungible concept. It is often received after attending a college seminary, obtaining a degree in religion. In most of Christianity, it is not so much an issue of authority, but a license to preach and run a church. This is the world that Joseph Smith and most early Latter-day Saints grew up in. This and other revelations would turn these traditional concepts on their head.
The restored priesthood provides three things: keys, power and authority. Keys open the door to perform certain ordinances and activities (discussed more in D&C 109). Authority is given to govern the Church, perform ordinances, and organize the work. As important as authority is, however, it is impotent without the power of the priesthood. President Packer recently stated that we do well on distributing the authority, but need to improve on distributing the true powers of heaven.
From the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood, we learn:
" For whoso is unto the obtaining these two of which I have spoken, and the their calling, are by the Spirit unto the of their bodies.
"They become the and of Aaron and the of , and the church and kingdom, and the of God.
"And also all they who receive this priesthood me, saith the Lord;
"For he that receiveth my servants me;
"And he that me receiveth my Father;
"And he that receiveth my Father receiveth my Father’s ; therefore that my Father hath shall be given unto him.
"And this is according to the which belongeth to the priesthood.
"Therefore, all those who receive the , receive this of my Father, which he cannot break, neither can it be moved." (vs 33-40)
It requires us to be faithful to obtain the priesthoods. It requires faith and effort to magnify our calling in the priesthood. Once we are on this path, we are then on the path of being sanctified by the Holy Ghost.
We often look at the priesthood as something reserved for men. This is not true. Priesthood power and authority is given to all those who are faithful. As parents, we use God's priesthood power and authority to teach and raise our children. Those set apart as Relief Society presidents and nursery leaders, are set apart by priesthood power and authority. They obtain the priesthood in these responsibilities. While men mayspecifically become the "sons of Moses and of Aaron," all may become the "seed of Abraham." Also, in the temple, we become the sons of Adam and of Eve through faithfulness to priesthood covenants and ordinances. We can become the "elect of God," a priesthood blessing.
For women, priesthood is just as important as it is for men. President Boyd K. Packer noted,
"I include the sisters because it is crucial for everyone to understand what is expected of the brethren. Unless we enlist the attention of the mothers and daughters and sisters—who have influence on their husbands, fathers, sons, and brothers—we cannot progress. The priesthood will lose great power if the sisters are neglected." (Ensign, April 2010, The Power of the Priesthood)
This power is not only for the men, but also for the women of the Church. Why? Because of the ordinances and covenants attached to the priesthood.
Beyond what Pres Packer noted about the woman's role in priesthood, we get an expanded and better understanding of their role from President Dallin H Oaks:
"The power of the priesthood exists both in the Church and in the family organization. But priesthood power and priesthood authority function differently in the Church than they do in the family. All of this is according to the principles the Lord has established. The purpose of God’s plan is to lead His children to eternal life. Mortal families are essential to that plan. The Church exists to provide the doctrine, the authority, and the ordinances necessary to perpetuate family relationships into the eternities." (The Melchizedek Priesthood and the Keys)The purpose of all priesthood is to exalt and bless individuals and families. Both men and women have responsibilities in the priesthood.
"Though women do not hold an office in the priesthood, they perform sacred temple ordinances under the authorization of the president of the temple, who holds the keys for the ordinances of the temple.Another example of priesthood authority under the direction of one who holds the keys are the teachings of men and women called to teach the gospel, whether in classes in their home wards or in the mission field. Other examples are those who hold leadership positions in the ward and exercise priesthood authority in their leadership by reason of their callings and under the setting apart and direction of the priesthood leader who holds the keys in the ward or the stake. This is how the authority and power of the priesthood is exercised and enjoyed in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." (ibid)In another talk, President Oaks said,
"Priesthood keys direct women as well as men, and priesthood ordinances and priesthood authority pertain to women as well as men." (The Keys and Authority of the Priesthood)
The Aaronic Priesthood provides the outward ordinances, holding the keys of repentance, baptism and the ministering of angels (D&C 13). These are amazing keys. Without them, no one can fully repent or be cleansed by water. These are ordinances that lift us from a Telestial to a Terrestrial state, where we can speak with angels. Not only can we personally speak with angels, but through the power of the priesthood, men and women can ask God to send angels to assist others. As Alma the Elder prayed for angels to call Alma the Younger to repentance and to change, so too, we can pray for angels to assist others in many ways.
On my mission, I knew a woman, who through the prayers of the elders who taught her, saw an angel, who testified to her of the Book of Mormon. I've seen many times when angels have helped people accept the gospel. I've also seen them help people in mundane matters: such as an investigator seeking employment. The missionaries prayed angels would help her. As she passed by a business, she felt someone literally push her into the business and she got a job. We can ask and hope for miracles, and yes, have angels assist us in our homes and in this great work.
greater Priesthood of Melchizedek holds even greater power and promise:
"And this greater priesthood administereth the gospel and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God.
"Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest.
And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh;
For without this no man can see the face of God, even the Father, and live.
Now this Moses plainly taught to the children of Israel in the wilderness, and sought diligently to sanctify his people that they might behold the face of God;
But they hardened their hearts and could not endure his presence; therefore, the Lord in his wrath, for his anger was kindled against them, swore that they should not enter into his rest while in the wilderness, which rest is the fulness of his glory. (D&C 84:19-24)
While the Aaronic Priesthood gives the power to have angels minister to a person and to have a remission of sins, the Melchizedek Priesthood holds the power to bring people into the presence of God, to have His mystery revealed to them, and to become not only cleansed of sin, but purified to a divine state!
Moses' goal at Sinai was to take Israel to the top of the mountain, where each one of them would see God personally. They refused to go, fearing God's wrath and reluctant to give up their sinful ways. God gave them the lesser priesthood as a preparatory power, to prepare them for the greater opportunities. If mankind was not ready to converse with God, perhaps they could be prepared to speak with angels.
The Melchizedek Priesthood, however, contains the power, primarily through the ordinances, of being in the presence of the members of the Godhead.
First, the Gift of the Holy Ghost is confirmed upon a person, giving that person access to the third member of the Godhead. In the temple ordinances, which set us apart from the world both figuratively and literally, we learn to walk through the Cosmos and all of Creation, in a journey to return back into the full presence and glory of God. This is not a journey that is accomplished alone. It is a journey for both Adam and Eve, husband and wife, who share the power, authority and blessings of the Melchizedek Priesthood within the temple. In the marriage sealing, husband and wife both receive together the Patriarchal Priesthood, the greatest role in the Melchizedek Priesthood. Husband and wife are promised that as they are faithful to God, they will receive blessings in time and eternity, to stand in God's presence and be like Him.
This is the purpose of the priesthood in our day: to prepare a people to stand in the presence of God and be holy. Through the ordinances the priesthood provides, men and women can enjoy the greatest blessings and opportunities of God in heaven. These promises begin with baptism and climb to the summit as believers enter into the Celestial Room of the temple, symbolic of the day when they literally will walk into the Celestial Kingdom and into the presence of God the Father and Jesus Christ.