On May 15, 1829, John the Baptist appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery and restored the Aaronic Priesthood. Shortly thereafter, the ancient Apostles Peter, James, and John appeared to Joseph and Oliver and restored the Melchizedek Priesthood. The Melchizedek Priesthood holds authority over all offices in the Church and administers in all spiritual things. This lesson will help students understand how the Church functions under the direction of the Melchizedek Priesthood.
Larry C. Porter, “The Restoration of the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods,” Ensign, Dec. 1996, 30–47.
Display a picture of a baptism (see Young Man Being Baptized [Gospel Art Book (2009), no. 103; see also LDS.org]) and a picture showing the administration of the sacrament (see Blessing the Sacrament [Gospel Art Book, no. 107; see also LDS.org]). Ask students to describe how their lives would be different if they did not have access to these sacred ordinances. Remind students that these ordinances represent some of the blessings we receive because of the restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood.
Invite a student to read Joseph Smith—History 1:68 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and identify what Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were doing that led them to ask the Lord about baptism. Ask them to report what they discovered.
Why was it necessary for Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery to receive the priesthood from a heavenly messenger? (There was no one on the earth at that time who held keys of the priesthood [see Articles of Faith 1:5].)
Invite students to read Joseph Smith—History 1:70–71. Explain that these verses clarify that the Prophet Joseph was the first to exercise the priesthood in this dispensation. Some people wonder why John the Baptist did not baptize Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery and why the two men were commanded to re-confer the priesthood on each other. You may want to explain that while it was necessary for a heavenly messenger bearing proper authority to restore priesthood authority to the earth for a new dispensation, once that authority was restored, all earthly ordinances such as baptism and ordination were to be performed by mortal beings. In addition, John the Baptist’s instruction that Joseph and Oliver re-confer the priesthood on each other placed “the ordination and baptism in the proper relationship [or the proper order]” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. [1954–56], 3:91).
Write the following question on the board:
Encourage students to consider this question as you read aloud the following statement by Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
“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” (“The Aaronic Priesthood and the Sacrament,” Ensign, Nov. 1998, 37–38).
Invite students to share their answers to the question on the board. Testify that the ordinances of the Aaronic Priesthood make available many blessings of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, including baptism for the remission of sins.
Invite the class to follow along as a student reads Joseph Smith—History 1:72 aloud. To help students broaden their understanding of the context of this passage, explain that shortly after John the Baptist’s visit, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery received the Melchizedek Priesthood from Peter, James, and John. This occurred in May 1829, somewhere near the Susquehanna River (see Larry C. Porter, “The Restoration of the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods,” Ensign, Dec. 1996, 30–47). After the organization of the Church, the Prophet received other revelations on the doctrine and purpose of the priesthood. The priesthood is a common theme throughout the Doctrine and Covenants.
Invite students to study Doctrine and Covenants 84:19 and 107:8, 18–19 silently, looking for how these verses describe the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood. You may want to suggest to students that they cross-reference these passages. (Note: Cross-referencing is a scripture study tool that can provide additional information about and insight into the passage being studied.) After sufficient time, invite students to share what they learned about the Melchizedek Priesthood. As they respond, write the following phrases on the board:
You might summarize the answers on the board by emphasizing the following truth: The Melchizedek Priesthood holds the keys of all the ordinances and spiritual blessings of the Church. To help students better understand the phrases on the board, discuss some or all of the following questions:
What are some ways in which the Melchizedek Priesthood “administereth the gospel”? (D&C 84:19). (Responses may include administering specific ordinances and presiding over and directing the Church.)
What do you think it means that the Melchizedek Priesthood “holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom”? (D&C 84:19). (You may want to explain that “mysteries of God are spiritual truths known only by revelation” [Guide to the Scriptures, “Mysteries of God,” scriptures.lds.org]. Among other mysteries, this verse refers to the temple ordinances that would soon be revealed to Joseph Smith and the fact that they must be administered by the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood. In the temple, worthy Church members can learn some of the “mysteries of God” as they participate in the ordinances administered there and keep the associated covenants.)
How does the Melchizedek Priesthood help us gain “the knowledge of God”? (D&C 84:19). (We gain the knowledge of God as we participate in ordinances that are performed by the Melchizedek Priesthood.)
To help students understand the phrase “the knowledge of God,” you may want to read the following statement by President James E. Faust (1920–2007) of the First Presidency:
“What is the key of the knowledge of God, and can anyone obtain it? Without the priesthood there can be no fulness of the knowledge of God. The Prophet Joseph Smith said that the ‘Melchizedek Priesthood … is the channel through which all knowledge, doctrine, the plan of salvation, and every important matter is revealed from heaven’ [Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith (2007), 108]” (“The Key of the Knowledge of God,” Ensign, Nov. 2004, 52).
Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 84:20–22. Ask the class to follow along, looking for ways the spiritual blessings available through the Melchizedek Priesthood can be enjoyed by every member of the Church. Then ask the following questions:
What ordinances can be administered only by the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood? (Confirmation, conferral of Melchizedek Priesthood, temple ordinances, blessing babies, administering to the sick, patriarchal blessings, setting a person apart for a calling.)
How can priesthood ordinances help a person experience “the power of godliness,” meaning the power to become like God?
How can the ordinances of the Melchizedek Priesthood prepare us to see the face of God?
How have priesthood ordinances helped you to become more like God?
What other experiences have contributed to your appreciation for and testimony of the priesthood?
Consider sharing your own testimony of the blessings of the priesthood. Encourage students to consider what they might do to better align themselves with the direction coming from their priesthood leaders.