Joseph Smith

    Prophet of God

    The Priesthood of God Returns to the Earth

    The Church of Jesus Christ Restored


    "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 ordinances 6 necessary for the salvation of God's children could be performed—including bestowing the gift of the Holy Ghost.

    Because priesthood keys 7 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 Matt.17:1–5). The Priesthood is everlasting—without beginning of days or end of years. . . . The keys have to be brought from heaven whenever the Gospel is sent. . . . How have we come at the Priesthood in the latter days? It came down, down, in regular succession. Peter, James, and John had it given to them and they gave it to others. (History of the Church, 3:385–87.)


    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 Archives, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah; spelling, punctuation, and capitalization modernized.)

    Gordon B. Hinckley, 15th President of the Church, 1995–present 

    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 D&C 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).


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    [1] The Aaronic Priesthood deals with the temporal and outward ordinances of the law and the gospel. It holds the keys of the ministering of angels, of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism. The Aaronic Priesthood was restored to the earth in this dispensation on May 15, 1829. John the Baptist conferred it on Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery on the banks of the Susquehanna River, near Harmony, Pennsylvania (The Guide to the Scriptures, "Aaronic Priesthood," 7–8).

    [2] D&C 13:1.

    [3] D&C 128:20.

    [4] The Melchizedek Priesthood is the higher or greater priesthood. It includes the keys of the spiritual blessings of the Church. Through the ordinances of the higher priesthood, the power of godliness is made manifest to men (see D&C 84:18–25; 107:18–21). The President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the president of the high or Melchizedek Priesthood, and he holds all the keys that pertain to the kingdom of God on the earth (The Guide to the Scriptures, "Melchizedek Priesthood," 161–62).

    [5] D&C 65:2.

    [6] Sacred rites and ceremonies. Ordinances consist of acts that have spiritual meanings, such as covenants with the Lord (The Guide to the Scriptures, "Ordinances," 184–85).

    [7] Keys are the rights of presidency, or the power given to man by God to direct, control, and govern God's priesthood on earth. Priesthood holders called to positions of presidency receive keys from those in authority over them. Priesthood holders use the priesthood only within the limits outlined by those who hold the keys. The President of the Church holds all priesthood keys (see D&C 107:65–67, 91–92; 132:7; The Guide to the Scriptures, "Keys of the Priesthood," 141).