Doctrine and Covenants 13: The Restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Student Study Guide, (2005), 25–26


You read inJoseph Smith—History 1:68–74about the restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood.Doctrine and Covenants 13is identical toJoseph Smith—History 1:69. As you read the words of John the Baptist this time, examine them for their doctrinal importance.

Understanding the Scriptures

Doctrine and Covenants 13

Conferred upon(section heading)Given to by authority 
Messiah(v. 1)Jesus Christ 
Confer(v. 1)Give 
Ministering of(v. 1)Service performed by 
Immersion(v. 1)Being completely covered by water 
Remission(v. 1)Forgiveness 

Doctrine and Covenants 13:1—Priesthood Keys

Saying that the Aaronic Priesthood holds certain keys does not mean that everyone who receives the Aaronic Priesthood also receives and may use the keys of that priesthood. Just as John the Baptist said he was “acting under the direction of Peter, James, and John” (section heading), the Aaronic Priesthood is governed by the higher or Melchizedek Priesthood.

Speaking “about the priesthood and those keys which the Lord has conferred upon us in this final gospel dispensation,” President Joseph Fielding Smith explained:

“These keys are the right of presidency; they are the power and authority to govern and direct all of the Lord’s affairs on earth. Those who hold them have power to govern and control the manner in which all others may serve in the priesthood. All of us may hold the priesthood, but we can only use it as authorized and directed so to do by those who hold the keys.

“This priesthood [Melchizedek] and these keys were conferred upon Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery by Peter, James, and John, and by Moses and Elijah and others of the ancient prophets. They have been given to each man who has been set apart as a member of the Council of the Twelve. But since they are the right of presidency, they can only be exercised in full by the senior apostle of God on earth, who is the president of the Church” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1972, 98–99; orEnsign,July 1972, 87).

Doctrine and Covenants 13:1—The Sons of Levi

Although Moses held the Melchizedek Priesthood, the law of Moses was administered under the Aaronic Priesthood (D&C 84:23–27). Only men from the tribe of Levi (called Levites) were given the Aaronic Priesthood. The expression “sons of Levi” was used to refer to all priesthood holders in that day. Moses and Aaron belonged to that tribe. It was the duty of the Levites to perform the sacrifices of the law of Moses in Old Testament times ( Bible Dictionary,“Levites,” p. 724). Today, the expression “sons of Levi” is used to characterize all those in the Church who faithfully receive the priesthood and become the “sons of Moses and of Aaron” (D&C 84:33–34).

Studying the Scriptures

Do activity A as you studyDoctrine and Covenants 13.

Activity A iconThe Priesthood in Action

Talk to a bishop or an Aaronic Priesthood holder about ways he has n the keys and powers of the Aaronic Priesthood bless the lives of people and help them come unto Christ. Write what you learn in your notebook.