On May 15, 1829, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery went to the woods near Joseph’s farm in Harmony, Pennsylvania, to inquire of the Lord after translating a passage in the Book of Mormon that emphasized the importance of the ordinance of baptism. While they were praying, John the Baptist appeared to them as a resurrected personage. He conferred the Aaronic Priesthood upon them, directed them to baptize one another in the nearby Susquehanna River, and then directed them to ordain each other to the Aaronic Priesthood. John’s words to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery are recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 13. Following their baptism, Joseph and Oliver were filled with the Holy Ghost and experienced great blessings.
Write the following questions on the board before class or provide them on a handout for each student (do not include the answers). As students come to class, invite them to answer the questions on a piece of paper or on their handouts. If necessary, suggest that they use the index to the triple combination (see “Priesthood, Aaronic”) or the Guide to the Scriptures (see “Aaronic Priesthood”) to find the correct answers. You may want to wait until after students have recorded their answers before you begin the devotional.
(Answers: (1) Joseph Smith—History or Doctrine and Covenants 13; (2) May 15, 1829 [see Joseph Smith—History 1:72]; (3) John the Baptist [see Joseph Smith—History 1:72]; (4) By the laying on of hands [see Joseph Smith—History 1:68, 71]; (5) John the Baptist told them they would later receive the Melchizedek Priesthood from the Apostles Peter, James, and John [see Joseph Smith—History 1:72].)
After the devotional, ask students to share their answers to the first question. After they have answered this question correctly, assign students to work in pairs and check their answers to the rest of the questions. Instruct them to use Joseph Smith—History 1:68–72 and the description by Oliver Cowdery that follows Joseph Smith—History. You may want to move around the classroom to help students find the right answers.
After sufficient time, review the answers together as a class. As you go over these answers together, help students identify and understand the following doctrines: John the Baptist restored the Aaronic Priesthood to the earth (see Joseph Smith—History 1:72). The priesthood is conferred by the laying on of hands (see Joseph Smith—History 1:68, 71). Also, as you review students’ answers, explain that Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery received the Melchizedek Priesthood from Peter, James, and John later in May 1829 (see Larry C. Porter, “The Restoration of the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods,” Ensign, Dec. 1996, 30–47).
Invite a student to read Joseph Smith—History 1:68 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Joseph and Oliver were doing that led them to ask the Lord about baptism for the remission of sins.
According to this verse, what led Joseph and Oliver to inquire about baptism for the remission of sins? (They were translating the Book of Mormon and came across teachings concerning baptism for the remission of sins.)
Point out that the restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood is so important that John the Baptist’s words were included in the Doctrine and Covenants as section 13. Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 13 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and identify how the restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood answered Joseph and Oliver’s prayer to know more about baptism for the remission of sins.
In what ways did the restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood answer Joseph and Oliver’s prayer to know more concerning baptism for the remission of sins?
On the board, draw a simple picture of a door with a keyhole.
What is the purpose of a door? (As students discuss this question, help them see that a door sits in the opening of a passageway to another location. Additionally, a door can either keep us out or let us in.)
Show students a set of keys (or draw a simple picture of a key on the board) and ask the following question:
How does a key relate to the function of a door? (A key locks or unlocks a door. When we use a key to unlock a door, it enables us to pass through and experience what is on the other side.)
Explain that the Lord uses keys as a symbol to represent the authority of the priesthood, which unlocks and opens the way for us to receive eternal opportunities and blessings. Invite students to search Doctrine and Covenants 13:1, looking for the keys associated with the Aaronic Priesthood. You may want to suggest that students mark these keys in their scriptures as they find them.
What did John the Baptist say the Aaronic Priesthood holds the keys of? (The Aaronic Priesthood holds the keys of the ministering of angels, the gospel of repentance, and baptism by immersion for the remission of sins. You may want to invite a student to write this statement under the picture of the door on the board.)
To help students better understand these keys of the Aaronic Priesthood and the blessings they make available to members of the Church, invite a student to read aloud the following explanation by Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. (Consider making a small copy of this statement for each student to keep in his or her scriptures.)
“What does it mean that the Aaronic Priesthood holds [the key of] the ‘gospel of repentance and of baptism, and the remission of sins’? The meaning is found in the ordinance of baptism and in the sacrament. Baptism is for the remission of sins, and the sacrament is a renewal of the covenants and blessings of baptism. Both should be preceded by repentance. …
“Not one of [us] has lived without sin since [our] baptism. Without some provision for further cleansing after our baptism, each of us is lost to things spiritual. …
“We are commanded to repent of our sins and to come to the Lord with a broken heart and a contrite spirit and partake of the sacrament in compliance with its covenants. When we renew our baptismal covenants in this way, the Lord renews the cleansing effect of our baptism. …
“We cannot overstate the importance of the Aaronic Priesthood in this. All of these vital steps pertaining to the remission of sins are performed through the saving ordinance of baptism and the renewing ordinance of the sacrament. Both of these ordinances are officiated by holders of the Aaronic Priesthood under the direction of the bishopric, who exercise the keys of the gospel of repentance and of baptism and the remission of sins” (“The Aaronic Priesthood and the Sacrament,” Ensign, Nov. 1998, 37–38).
How do the keys of the Aaronic Priesthood help us receive the blessings of the Atonement of Jesus Christ?
According to Elder Oaks, who directs the keys of the gospel of repentance and baptism in each ward?
To help students better understand the key of the ministering of angels, invite a student to read the following explanation by Elder Oaks:
“As a young holder of the Aaronic Priesthood, I did not think I would see an angel, and I wondered what such appearances had to do with the Aaronic Priesthood.
“But the ministering of angels can also be unseen. Angelic messages can be delivered by a voice or merely by thoughts or feelings communicated to the mind” (“The Aaronic Priesthood and the Sacrament,” 39).
Invite a student to come to the front of the class and hold up the pictures Young Man Being Baptized (Gospel Art Book , no. 103; see also LDS.org) and Blessing the Sacrament (no. 107), if available.
How might understanding the keys of the Aaronic Priesthood influence your thoughts or actions as you prepare, administer, or partake of the sacrament each week?
Invite the young women in class to share their feelings about the Aaronic Priesthood and the blessings it brings into their lives. You may also want to share why you appreciate the restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood.
Invite a student to read Joseph Smith—History 1:73 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and identify words and phrases that describe what Joseph and Oliver experienced after they were baptized. You may want to suggest that students mark these words and phrases in their scriptures.
What came upon Joseph and Oliver after they were baptized?
Since Joseph and Oliver had not yet received the gift of the Holy Ghost, what they experienced on this occasion was the power of the Holy Ghost. Joseph and Oliver would receive the Melchizedek Priesthood for conferring the gift of the Holy Ghost at a later date (see Joseph Smith—History 1:70; see also Bible Dictionary or Guide to the Scriptures, “Holy Ghost,” scriptures.lds.org).
Invite a student to read Joseph Smith—History 1:74 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for a specific blessing Joseph and Oliver received through the power of the Holy Ghost. After students have reported what they have found, write the following doctrine on the board: The Holy Ghost helps us understand the meaning and intention of the scriptures.
Why do you think we need the Holy Ghost to help us understand the scriptures?
When has the Holy Ghost helped you understand the “true meaning and intention” of the scriptures?
Invite students to spend a few minutes writing in their class notebooks or scripture study journals about what they will do to invite the help of the Holy Ghost as they study the scriptures.