Doctrine and Covenants 81: The Lord's Counsel to the Presidency

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Student Study Guide, (2005), 92


The Lord did not reveal the complete organization of His Church to the Prophet all at once. The organization grew as the Church grew. InDoctrine and Covenants 81, the Lord gave Joseph Smith further counsel about the “Presidency of the High Priesthood,” which would later become the First Presidency. Look for what the Lord did to give Joseph Smith some help in leading the Church. Imagine how Frederick G. Williams might have felt as he received this calling from the Lord. Notice that this revelation was originally intended for Jesse Gause, but he did not remain faithful (D&C 81heading).

Understanding the Scriptures

Doctrine and Covenants 81

Succor(v. 5)Help, support 
Alpha and Omega(v. 7)These are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet and are a title for Jesus Christ. The title symbolizes that Jesus is the “Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.” 

Doctrine and Covenants 81:2—The “Keys of the Kingdom” Are Always Held by the First Presidency.

The fact that the keys of the kingdom always belong to the First Presidency was explained by President Joseph Fielding Smith during a general priesthood meeting:

First Presidency

“These keys [the keys of the kingdom of God on earth] 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 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.

“May I now say—very plainly and very emphatically—that we have the holy priesthood and that the keys of the kingdom of God are here. They are found only in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“By revelation to Joseph Smith, the Lord said that these keys ‘belong always unto the Presidency of the High Priesthood’ (D&C 81:2). …

“Now, brethren, I think there is one thing which we should have exceedingly clear in our minds. Neither the President of the Church, nor the First Presidency, nor the united voice of the First Presidency and the Twelve will ever lead the Saints astray or send forth counsel to the world that is contrary to the mind and will of the Lord.

“An individual may fall by the wayside, or have views, or give counsel which falls short of what the Lord intends. But the voice of the First Presidency and the united voice of those others who hold with them the keys of the kingdom shall always guide the Saints and the world in those paths where the Lord wants them to be. …

“I testify that if we shall look to the First Presidency and follow their counsel and direction, no power on earth can stay or change our course as a church, and as individuals we shall gain peace in this life and be inheritors of eternal glory in the world to come” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1972, 98–99; orEnsign,July 1972, 87–88).

Studying the Scriptures

Do activity A as you studyDoctrine and Covenants 81.

Activity A iconMake a Checklist

ReviewDoctrine and Covenants 81and list what the Lord asked Frederick G. Williams to do. Make a check mark beside those you think apply only to the First Presidency and circle those you think apply to every member of the Church.