While translating the portion of the Book of Mormon plates concerning the ministry of the resurrected Jesus Christ among the Nephites (3 Nephi 11–28), the Prophet Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery had questions about baptism. They went to the woods near Joseph’s farm in Harmony, Pennsylvania, to inquire of the Lord concerning this important matter. While they were praying, an angel appeared to them. He conferred the Aaronic Priesthood on them and directed them to baptize one another in the nearby Susquehanna River. Following Joseph’s and Oliver’s baptisms, the angel instructed them to ordain each other to the Aaronic Priesthood. Joseph first laid his hands on Oliver and ordained him to the Aaronic Priesthood, and then Oliver did the same to Joseph.
Without looking in your scriptures, answer the following questions in your scripture study journal as best you can:
On what date was the Aaronic Priesthood restored?
What was the name of the angel who restored the Aaronic Priesthood to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery?
What did the angel do to confer the Aaronic Priesthood on Joseph and Oliver?
What else did the angel tell Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery they would receive after the Aaronic Priesthood?
Read Joseph Smith—History 1:68–72, and check your answers. You may want to write the following doctrine next to Joseph Smith—History 1:68: The priesthood is conferred by the laying on of hands. Accordingly, John the Baptist, as a resurrected person, conferred the Aaronic Priesthood upon Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery.
Look back at Joseph Smith—History 1:68, searching for what Joseph and Oliver were doing that led them to ask the Lord about baptism and receiving a remission of their sins. Joseph Smith—History 1:69 contains the words John the Baptist spoke to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery.
The restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood is so important that these words were also included in the Doctrine and Covenants as section 13, which is a scripture mastery passage. You may want to mark it in a distinctive way so you can locate it easily in the future.
What is the function or purpose of a door?
How does a key relate to a door’s function?
The Lord uses a key as a symbol to represent the authority of the priesthood that unlocks eternal opportunities and blessings. Search Doctrine and Covenants 13, looking for the keys associated with the Aaronic Priesthood. Consider marking these keys in your scriptures as you find them.
In your scripture study journal, complete the following list by writing the three keys mentioned in Doctrine and Covenants 13:
The Aaronic Priesthood holds the keys of:
Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained the keys of the Aaronic Priesthood and the blessings they make available to members of the Church:
“What does it mean that the Aaronic Priesthood holds ‘the key of the ministering of angels’ and 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).
Consider how 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?
President Gordon B. Hinckley explained the key to the ministering of angels this way:
“When Wilford Woodruff, a man who had lived many years and had many experiences, was the President of the Church, he said to the boys of the Aaronic Priesthood: ‘I desire to impress upon you the fact that it does not make any difference whether a man is a Priest or an Apostle, if he magnifies his calling. A Priest holds the keys of the ministering of angels,’ said he. ‘Never in my life, as an Apostle, as a Seventy, or as an Elder, have I ever had more of the protection of the Lord than while holding the office of a Priest.’ (Millennial Star, 53:629.)
“Think of it, my dear young brethren. This priesthood which you hold carries with it the keys of the ministering of angels. That means, as I interpret it, that if you live worthy of the priesthood, you have the right to receive and enjoy the very power of heavenly beings to guide you, to protect you, to bless you. What boy, if he is thoughtful, would not welcome this remarkable blessing?” (“The Priesthood of Aaron,” Ensign, Nov. 1982, 45).
Elder Oaks gave some additional insights into the key of the ministering of angels:
“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. …
“In general, the blessings of spiritual companionship and communication are only available to those who are clean. … So it is that those who hold the Aaronic Priesthood open the door for all Church members who worthily partake of the sacrament to enjoy the companionship of the Spirit of the Lord and the ministering of angels” (“The Aaronic Priesthood and the Sacrament,” 39).
Answer the following question in your scripture study journal: How might understanding the power of the Aaronic Priesthood affect your thoughts or actions as you prepare, administer, or partake of the sacrament this Sunday?
Write out Doctrine and Covenants 13:1 in your scripture study journal. Recite the passage aloud. Then cover part of the passage and recite it again. Continue covering more and more of the passage and repeating it aloud until you have it memorized.
The Lord poured out great blessings upon Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery after their baptism. Read Joseph Smith—History 1:73–74. You may want to mark words or phrases that describe what Joseph and Oliver experienced.
It is important to note that Joseph and Oliver experienced the power of the Holy Ghost, since they had not yet been given the Melchizedek Priesthood for conferring the gift of the Holy Ghost (see Joseph Smith—History 1:70; see also Bible Dictionary or Guide to the Scriptures, “Holy Ghost”).
From what Joseph and Oliver experienced on this occasion, described in Joseph Smith—History 1:74, complete the following principle: The Holy Ghost helps us understand the and of the scriptures.
In your scripture study journal, write your thoughts about the following questions:
Why do you think we need the Holy Ghost to help us understand the scriptures?
When have you felt the Holy Ghost help you understand the “true meaning and intention” of the scriptures?
What can you do to invite the help of the Holy Ghost as you study the scriptures?
How can renewing your baptismal covenants by partaking of the sacrament affect your understanding of the scriptures?
To conclude this lesson, read Oliver Cowdery’s description of the events surrounding the restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood, which can be found after the conclusion of Joseph Smith—History. As you read, you may want to mark words or phrases that stand out to you. What can you learn from Oliver’s description?