“Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah I confer the Priesthood of Aaron,1 which holds the keys of the ministering of angels,”2 the ancient prophet John the Baptist announced on May 15, 1829, when sent by God to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery at Harmony, Pennsylvania.
Weeks later, Peter, James, and John, who possess “the keys of the kingdom, and of the dispensation of the fulness of times,”3 appeared to Joseph and Oliver and conferred upon them the Melchizedek Priesthood.4 Now the fulness of the gospel could be restored, the Church of Jesus Christ could be organized to “roll forth,”5 and all the ordinances6 necessary for the salvation of God’s children could be performed—including bestowing the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Because priesthood keys7 were restored to Joseph Smith, all of God’s children can receive the ordinances of salvation, such as baptism administered by those called of God to act and speak in His name.
Joseph Smith Quotes
“The Melchizedek Priesthood . . . is the channel through which all knowledge, doctrine, the plan of salvation, and every important matter is revealed from heaven. . . . It is the channel through which the Almighty commenced revealing His glory at the beginning of the creation of this earth, and through which He has continued to reveal Himself to the children of men to the present time, and through which He will make known His purposes to the end of time” (History of the Church, 4:207; spelling modernized and paragraph divisions altered.)
“The Savior, Moses, and [Elijah], gave the keys to Peter, James, and John, on the mount, when they were transfigured before him [see Matthew 17:1–5]. The Priesthood is everlasting—without beginning of days or end of years” (History of the Church, 3:387). “The keys have to be brought from heaven whenever the Gospel is sent” (page 386). “How have we come at the Priesthood in the last days? It came down, down, in regular succession. Peter, James, and John had it given to them and they gave it to others” (page 387).
Oliver Cowdery, Witness to the Book of Mormon
“I was present with Joseph when an holy angel from God came down from heaven and conferred, or restored, the Aaronic Priesthood. . . . I was also present with Joseph when the Melchizedek Priesthood was conferred by the holy angels of God, which we then confirmed on each other by the will and commandment of God” (remarks given on Oct. 21, 1848, in Kanesville, Iowa; quoted in Reuben Miller, Journals 1848–49, vol. 1, entry made Oct. 21, 1848, Church History Library, Salt Lake City; spelling, punctuation, and capitalization modernized).
Gordon B. Hinckley, 15th President of the Church, 1995–2008
“Can you imagine what a wonderful experience this restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood must have been for Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery when John the Baptist spoke to them? Here was a man who had lived upon the earth more than 1,800 years earlier. Now he was speaking in English to two young men while he held his hands upon their heads. His was a resurrected body. Theirs were mortal bodies. They felt his hands, the materiality of them, and understood the words that he spoke. This tells us that resurrected beings are tangible, that they can move and act, that they can speak and be understood” (“Priesthood Restoration,” Ensign, Oct. 1988, 69).
What is the priesthood?
“[The priesthood] is veritably the power of the Almighty given to man to act in His name and in His stead,” said President Gordon B. Hinckley. “It is a delegation of divine authority, different from all other powers and authorities on the face of the earth. . . . Without it there could be a church in name only, lacking authority to administer in the things of God. With it, nothing is impossible in carrying forward the work of the kingdom of God. It is divine in its nature. It is both temporal and eternal in its authority. It is the only power on the earth that reaches beyond the veil of death” (“Priesthood Restoration,” Ensign, Oct. 1988, 71).
Who holds the keys of the priesthood, or the authority to direct the work of the priesthood?
“The Priesthood was first given to Adam,” taught Joseph Smith. “He obtained the First Presidency, and held the keys of it from generation to generation. . . . The keys have to be brought from heaven whenever the Gospel is sent. When they are revealed from heaven, it is by Adam’s authority” (History of the Church, 3:385–86). The keys to preside are held by presidents of priesthood quorums. The President of the Church, as the presiding high priest, holds all priesthood keys entrusted to man on earth. Through priesthood keys come spiritual blessings and knowledge (see Doctrine and Covenants 84:19–22; 107:18–19). “The keys of the Priesthood were committed to Joseph,” President Brigham Young said, “to build up the kingdom of God on the earth, and were not to be taken from him in time or in eternity” (Deseret News, Apr. 30, 1853, 47; italics deleted).
Online Resources at ChurchofJesusChrist.org
“Restoration of the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods”—in “Establishing the Foundations of the Church,” Our Heritage: A Brief History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (1996), 11–14
“The Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods Were Restored”—in “Joseph Smith: First President of the Church,” Presidents of the Church Student Manual (Church Educational System manual, 2004), 11
“Keys of the Kingdom Were Bestowed”—in “Joseph Smith: First President of the Church,” Presidents of the Church Student Manual (Church Educational System manual, 2004), 11
“Restoration of the Priesthood and Baptism”—in “Coming Forth of the Book of Mormon and Restoration of the Priesthood,” Church History in the Fulness of Times Student Manual (Church Educational System manual, 2003), 55–56