The Priesthood and Keys of the Priesthood
Holders of the priesthood are given the authority to act for the Lord and do His work on the earth. The priesthood is divided into two parts: the Melchizedek Priesthood and the Aaronic Priesthood (see D&C 107:1). “The first is called the Melchizedek Priesthood … because Melchizedek was such a great high priest. Before his day it was called the Holy Priesthood, after the Order of the Son of God. But out of respect or reverence to the name of the Supreme Being, to avoid the too frequent repetition of his name, they, the church, in ancient days, called that priesthood after Melchizedek, or the Melchizedek Priesthood” (D&C 107:2–4).
The Aaronic Priesthood is “an appendage to the greater, or the Melchizedek Priesthood” (D&C 107:14). It is called the Aaronic Priesthood because it was conferred on Aaron and his sons throughout all their generations. Those who hold the Aaronic Priesthood have authority to administer the outward ordinances of the sacrament and baptism. (See D&C 20:46;107:13–14, 20.). It is often called the preparatory priesthood. As a priesthood holder serves in the Aaronic Priesthood, he prepares to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood, to receive the blessings of the temple, to serve a full-time mission, to be a loving husband and father, and to continue in lifelong service to the Lord.
The Lord has instructed that the holders of the priesthood be organized into quorums. A quorum is a body of brethren holding the same priesthood office. Each quorum has a president with two counselors. Each quorum presidency can receive revelation (guidance) from the Lord for their quorum.
The exercise of priesthood authority in the Church is governed by those who hold priesthood keys (see D&C 65:2; 124:123). Those who hold priesthood keys have the right to preside over and direct the Church within a jurisdiction. For example, a bishop holds priesthood keys that enable him to preside in his ward. Therefore, when a child in that ward is prepared to be baptized, the person baptizing the child must receive authorization from the bishop. Holders of priesthood keys receive revelation only for those in their stewardship, and not for those who preside over them.
Aaronic (lesser) Priesthood: Offices and Duties
A. Deacon (age 12+)
· Pass the sacrament
· Collect fast offerings
· Keep church buildings/grounds in good order
· Messengers for priesthood leaders
B. Teacher (age 14+)
· All duties of a Deacon
· Prepare the sacrament
· Home Teacher (regularly visit and strengthen church members; encourage them to live gospel principles)
C. Priest (age 16+)
· All duties of a Teacher
· Bless the sacrament
· Ordain others to the Aaronic Priesthood
· President of the Priest's Quorum; presides over the Aaronic Priesthood in a Ward
· Deal with temporal matters, such as administering finances and records and directing care for the poor and needy
· Also ordained a High Priest and has Melchizedek Priesthood duties:
o Preside over all members in a Ward
o Judge; interviews members for temple recommends, priesthood ordinations, and other needs.
o Right to the gift of discernment
Melchizedek (greater) Priesthood: Offices and Duties
E. Elder (generally age 18+)
· All duties of a Priest
· Give the Gift of the Holy Ghost (confirmation)
· Give priesthood blessings of healing, comfort, and guidance; can name and bless children
· Ordain others to the Melchizedek Priesthood
· Preach the gospel by the Spirit
· Minister to family and others
F. High Priest
· All duties of an Elder
· Authority to officiate in the church and administer spiritual things (Stake presidents, mission presidents, high councilors, bishops, patriarchs and other leaders of the church are ordained high priests)
· Gives patriarchal blessings. These blessings are the word of the Lord personally to us and give us some understanding of our callings on earth.
· Assist in building up and regulating the church
· Special witness of Jesus Christ in all the world
· Administer the affairs of the Church throughout the world
· Each holds all keys of the kingdom of God on earth, but only the senior Apostle (called the Prophet, or President of the Church) actively exercises all of the keys. The others act under his direction.
· The Prophet and his two counselors form the first presidency, the highest governing body in the church, and preside over the entire church.
Auxiliaries to the Priesthood
All organizations in the Church work under the direction of priesthood leaders and help them carry out the work of the Lord. For example, the presidencies in a ward’s Relief Society, Young Women, Young Men, Primary, and Sunday School organizations serve under the direction of the bishopric. These organizations are called auxiliaries to the priesthood.
Q What is the difference between priesthood authority and priesthood keys?
Q How do priesthood keys safeguard the church?
Q How do priesthood keys help us to access the blessings of the atonement of Jesus Christ?
Q How can auxiliaries to the priesthood help strengthen individuals and families?
Q How can home teachers bless individuals and families?
Q What blessings have you received because we have general authorities? Stakes? Wards?
Q What role do you have as an individual in helping priesthood quorums and auxiliaries be successful in the Ward?
For more information about the need for the Priesthood and Priesthood offices in the Church of Jesus Christ, see the following lessons:
For more information about how the Priesthood was restored, see The Restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ