Archive for the ‘Priesthood’ Category

26
Apr

Revelation and Priesthood Keys (April 2007)

   Posted by: John

The Sunday School lesson this week was about Priesthood keys, along with the events at the mount of transfiguration. Brother Miner led a very interesting discussion about what “keys” are and who has them.

One thing we talked about first was the part in Matthew 15 where Jesus asked the apostles what people thought of him.

13 When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?

14 And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.

15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?

16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.

17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.

During the discussion, we talked about how Peter knew that Jesus was the Christ. It would be easy to say that, well, Christ was there, why wouldn’t they know. One has to keep in mind that Christ was almost as mortal as any other man. He had a body of flesh and blood, as does every other person who lives or lived on this Earth. He was subject to hunger, pain, and any other malady that afflicts man. Thus, being as a “man”, the Holy Ghost still needed to perform the act of testifying to Christ’s divinity, just as it does for us who are not in His physical presence. That is why Christ told Peter that Father in heaven had revealed it to him. This passage of scripture also tells us that man is wholly incapable of providing spiritual testimony. A person can testify of things they know the spirit has confirmed, but the spirit must seal that testimony in the heart of the receiver.

Now, the Savior continues with this:

 18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

The basis of the Catholic church rests on verse 18, wherein the Savior says “upon this rock I will build my church”. Catholicism says that Peter was the first Pope, and this is where Christ named him as such. This is an error. Jesus was not referring to Peter as a rock (although Peter was destined to be the president of Christ’s church later on, and proved himself to be an unmovable rock in the gospel). Rather, Jesus was talking about revelation. Christ’s church is based upon God revealing himself to man through the Holy Ghost. Revelation is vital to true religion. When the spirit testifies, it is revelation. When a Bishop issues a calling, it is done by revelation. The 5th article of faith, as given by Joseph Smith, states unequivocally 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”. If there is no revelation and prophecy, a person can not be called of God, nor can he assume ecclesiastical responsibility with any level of validity. Peter was to be given the keys of the kingdom, but was never meant to be the foundation and basis of the church. That role belongs to Jesus, and he reveals how his church must be governed and administered.

Several days after these events, we read, in Matthew 17, this:

1 And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart,

2 And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.

3 And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him.

4 Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.

5 While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.

Jesus took his first presidency (although at that time, they were not likely installed as such yet) with him to a high mountain, away from everything. It is likely that they prayed, and then Jesus was transfigured and received two (that we know of) messengers, Moses and Elias (Elijah). One has to ask why Jesus needed to be transfigured before Moses and Elias. He was the Son of God! The answer is that Jesus did not have a glorified body (as he does now). Because he was a man there was no need for anyone to be transfigured to be in His presence. At the same time, because he was a man, he had to be transfigured to stand in the presence of heavenly beings.

The reason for these visits at the mount of transfiguration, according to Bruce R. McConkie, was for Moses and Elijah to pass on the keys which they held to Christ, who then conferred those keys on Peter. (Again, one has to wonder why the Son of God needed these keys to be given to him, seeing as how they belong to him in the first place. However, as with every other aspect of Christ’s mortal life, he did things as an example, to fulfill righteousness, and, I feel, to perfect His role as the perfect man.) Peter, James and John were witnesses to this event, and likely took an active part in it. (As a side note, during this visit, the Father himself took the opportunity to “introduce” himself by proclaiming Christ to be his Son. If, as most Christian churches claim, Christ and God are the same, how could this occur?)

Now, as to the keys themselves, we had an interesting discussion about these keys and who holds them. Again, Bruce R. McConkie becomes very useful, wherein he states that keys are reserved for presidents of their respective Priesthood charges. The only people who hold all of the keys is the president of the church, his counselors, and the twelve apostles. The President is the one authorized to use those keys. He can delegate others to use some of the keys, as he sees fit. The only exception to this rule is when the President dies, and then the quorum of the apostles can use those keys to ordain the next president. At that time, the new president can use those keys and the keys the apostles hold like dormant again.

Brother Miner got the High Priest group leader to stand up in front with him and asked him what keys he held. The answer was “none whatsoever”. And, he’s right. The High Priest group leader is not the president of the Melchizedek Priesthood in the stake. The Stake President is the president of the High Priests, and holds the keys pertaining to that responsibility. The Bishop is the president of the Aaronic Priesthood and the Priest’s quorum, and holds keys pertaining to that office.

Remember that Elder McConkie said that the keys were reserved for the presidents. Counselors to the stake president do not hold keys. Members of the stake high council do not hold keys. Members of a quorum do not hold keys. Only the president does.

At some time after the events at the mount of transfiguration, Christ gave Peter the necessary Priesthood keys, thus designating him as the president of the church. Since the members of the quorum of the 12 Apostles hold all of the keys, either Christ or Peter bestowed those keys on the rest of the Apostles. As these Apostles were killed or imprisoned, the keys were removed from the earth, making it impossible for Christ’s true church to remain intact.

It is interesting to look at how these keys were restored to Joseph Smith. The period of time covers years, starting in 1829, when John the Baptist restored the keys of the Aaronic Priesthood. Then, also in 1829, Peter, James and John restored the keys of the Melchizedek Priesthood. However, it should be noted that Peter, James, and John did not restore all of the priesthood keys. Some were reserved for others.

In 1836, in the Kirtland temple, Moses, Elias, and Elijah appeared to confer keys to Joseph Smith. It is interesting that these same prophets appeared on the mount of transfiguration to confer the same keys. I find it fascinating to think of the ancient apostles, who held these keys, are the ones honored to give them. From the foundation of the world, they were ordained to carry the keys of the kingdom, had those keys given to them, and are instrumental in returning those keys to the earth when they have been lost.

What a blessing it is to us to have these available to us. President Hinckley carries them and uses them daily as part of his duties. My Stake President and Bishop carry the keys of their offices, rightfully given to them by men who, holding the priesthood in righteousness, have those keys and are authorized by God to give them to other righteous men. What other church in the world can claim to call men by revelation and prophecy and the laying on of hands? None, as none others have the priesthood.

Along with the keys now on the earth, I have also learned this last week that there are many more Priesthood keys that we do not have, but will be available to those who move on to the next world in righteousness. I learned from the Bishop (and it was further expounded upon by a talk I listened to later that same evening by Phillip Allred) that there is a Priesthood key of resurrection. We do not have this key, but righteous resurrected beings in the next world can have it, and use it when it is needed. Brigham Young talked about this key in some of his addresses, and mentioned that there were many others, like the key of creation, that are part of God’s holy Priesthood. The reason we do not have them, or even know much about them is because they are not directly related to our salvation in this life and therefore are not necessary for us to have at this time. Fascinating, isn’t it, to know that this life is just a portion of our journey toward becoming like God. He has given us what we need, along with some tidbits of things to come, just enough to whet our appetites and help us understand what our true eternal potential is.

So, as a conclusion to this rather long essay, this has been an incredible subject to delve into. Truly, this topic can be listed as one of the mysteries of God, but one that will be understood and used by those who are worthy to move forward in the next life.

17
Dec

Priesthood Lesson (December 2006)

   Posted by: John

The Priesthood lesson today was on the Second Coming.  It was interesting to review various things we already know about the second coming.  During the discussion, we were talking about what we will be doing during the millennium.  Among other things, we will be doing genealogy and temple work.  We were discussing the kind of family history work that we would be involved in, having the heavenly records to work with.  I made kind of a flip comment that God’s bookkeeping system would be a lot more accurate than anything we have ever used.  After thinking about that a little more, I realized that God’s books will be perfect.  Every person who has ever lived on this Earth will be recorded in it, along with their parents, siblings, when and where they were born and lived, when they died, who they married, etc.  And, being a heavenly record, there will be no errors in translation, no incomplete entries, no wrong dates, and no family member missing because they died at birth.  Now, for those who are into family history, having those records at their disposal will be amazing.

Also, during the course of the discussion, Norm Stoddard had a deep thought.  He first asked if we thought the church was growing faster in foreign countries than here in the United States.  I think that it is.  So Norm said something along the lines of how we may be in danger in this country of losing the leadership to another, more humble place.  I thought about that.  There is some scriptural basis for that line of thought.  How many times in the Book of Mormon did the church move from one nation to another?  Then, the nation that had the church sent missionaries to the other nations to bring their brethren to repentance.

These kinds of examples are based on one of my pet peeves about history.  It is easy to see what happens when reading about it, particularly when one can cover years, or hundreds of years in a few pages.  The perspective is different when living it day to day.  The slowness of living compared to the rapidity of history makes it difficult to apply the lessons that history provides.

This is one of the reasons that the Lord wants us to STUDY the scriptures, to become familiar with them, to know them, so we can learn and recognize the lessons.  We have an advantage over people of all previous dispensations in that we have the scriptures available to read any time we wish.  Every person can have their own copy to read, mark, or ignore if they so choose.  One wonders if the children of Israel would have been so rebellious and quick to turn from the Lord if every household had their own set of scriptures to read and learn from.

On further reflection, I agree with Norm’s thought to a point.  Yes, it is possible that this land could fall into deep iniquity and require the efforts of missionaries from another location to bring us to repentance.  However, I do not think it is likely.  The difference is that we have the scriptures in our homes.  We are told that the elect may fall, but I do not believe that the majority of the LDS church will fall away.  To ensure that we do not fall away, we need to humble ourselves before the Lord to avoid becoming another “history lesson” worthy of future scriptural mention.

This morning was our Stake Priesthood leadership meeting, at 6 AM.  Now, that sounds like an awful time of the morning to have a meeting of this nature, but President Olsen explained that, and in reality, having a meeting like this in the morning is a great way to start the day.  Not that I would recommend it every week…

Pres. Olsen’s reasoning for the meeting is based on a letter from the First Presidency some time ago that said Sunday meetings should be restricted to the necessary only in order to give church members the most time at home with their families as possible.  He reasoned that we were not doing anything productive with our spouses and children at 6 AM, so we might as well meet at that time.

Pres. Olsen started with a scripture from 1 Nephi 17, where Nephi, after arriving and living on the coast for some time, was commanded to build a ship.  In verse 9, Nephi asks “Lord, hither shall I go that I may find ore to molten, that I may make tools to construct the ship after the manner which thou hast shown unto me?”  He then went into “tools” a little, and talked about how the church has programs, callings, and responsibilities that are used to give people means to grow and to serve others.

I got to thinking about tools in general.  A tool is just that, a tool.  It does nothing by itself, neither creative nor destructive.  It is merely an instrument that is useless unless someone picks it up and uses it.  Once in the hands of someone, it becomes an implement to create, modify, or even destroy.  Sometimes it becomes a member of a group of tools use to some end purpose.

Tools may have multiple purposes.  For example, a claw hammer’s primary purpose is to drive nails.  However, it may also be used to remove nails, straighten bent nails or other items, or even to take things apart by prying or hammering.  The hammer is used in different ways depending on the purpose needed at the time.  The scope of the hammer’s use is limited to its design and functionality.  It is not suitable for cutting wood or turning bolts.  Different tools are required for those functions.  Many tools, such as a table saw, should only be used by those who have been trained in their use and given “authority” to use them properly for their intended purpose.

The church is no different.  The Lord has given us a wide range of “tools” to use in our organizations and callings.  These tools have a scope of use and many are available only to those who are “authorized” to use them.  Many tools are “hammers”, to be used by anyone for the purpose of building spiritual strength.  Meetings, the scriptures, the sacrament and participation in lessons are some examples of “hammers” that almost anyone can use to build themselves up and put together their personal salvation.  Other tools are “table saws”, for use by quorum leaders, bishops, or anyone else who has a calling.  When someone is given a calling and set apart, they are given a set of tools to fulfill that calling.  How they use them is subject to some guidelines and their creativity within those guidelines.

How are we using the tools we are given?  Have we even picked them up?  Have we found creative ways to use them within their scope of operation to build in creative, innovative or other ways?  Are the products or end results a reflection on how we used the tools?  Are we clumsy or skillful?  Can we learn how to use them better and more effectively?

Nephi, having written his conversation with the Lord, gives us insight into how we should approach our callings, membership in the church, our personal lives, and the tools we use to fulfill them.  “Where shall I go…to find tools to construct the ship after the manner which thou has shown unto me?”  What is our “ship?”  It is any thing we need to build in our lives.  Nephi acknowledged that his ship’s design was the Lord’s design.  Virtually all of our “ships” are also designed by the Lord, given by His eternal wisdom.  Nephi knew he could build the ship, but also knew he would need the proper tools first.  Further, Nephi asked the Lord for the starting point, in this case, where he could find the raw materials.

Our starting point may be our baptism, a calling to the Bishopric, our marriage.  Once we start, having the tools to be successful is vital to finishing the job.  Most callings have releases, however new callings are issued.  Our marriages are a continual work, as is our personal salvation.  There are numerous tools given to us, but we may be required to make some of our own.  Then, by using them within the scope of their operation, we are able to progress.

This was a very interesting line of thought to pursue, but I feel that my eyes were opened to some level of understanding.