During His mortal ministry, the Savior called, ordained, and commissioned twelve Apostles. He conferred priesthood keys upon them, and they received a witness of His divinity. Under the Savior’s direction, the Apostles helped govern the work of the Church and were prepared for the time when He would no longer be on the earth. This lesson explores the Savior’s priesthood authority and His preparation of the Apostles to lead the Church.
Begin class by asking the following questions:
How do we recognize individuals who have authority to lead in our community?
How would a person living at the time of Jesus Christ have recognized His authority? (Possible answers include His power, miracles, and teachings.)
Ask the class to consider this question: “How, when, and by whom did the Savior receive the Melchizedek Priesthood?” Then share the following statements by Elder B. H. Roberts (1857–1933) of the Seventy and Elder Bruce R. McConkie (1915–85) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
“This passage [D&C 107:2–4] clearly establishes the fact that the Melchizedek Priesthood existed before the great High Priest Melchizedek, but that it existed under another name, viz—‘The Holy Priesthood after the order of the Son of God.’ That is to say, it was the same kind of priesthood, the same order of priesthood, that the Son of God held. But this was before the days of Melchizedek, before Abraham, and hence hundreds of years before the birth of the Christ into the world. … Jesus, then, held what we call now the Melchizedek Priesthood before he appeared in this world, and doubtless before the world itself was formed, … but ‘how, where and by whom’ he received it, no man knoweth, except perhaps as to the last, viz., ‘by whom.’ He must, of course, have received it of God” (B. H. Roberts, Improvement Era, May, 1908, 557).
“But as pertaining to his mortal ministry, Christ … received the Melchizedek Priesthood here on earth, and was ordained to the office of a high priest therein, thus setting an example for others and being in all things the Prototype of salvation” (Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, vol. 3 , 157).
After sufficient time, invite students to pair up with another member of the class to discuss what they found. Then ask a few students to share their answers with the class. Help students recognize that Jesus gave His Apostles priesthood authority that would enable them to do the same works they had seen Him do.
Invite a student to read Matthew 16:15–19 aloud. Ask:
How did Peter recognize Jesus’s authority? (By revelation, which is the same way modern disciples recognize His authority.)
What did Jesus promise to give to Peter?
Invite several students to take turns reading aloud from Matthew 17:1–8. Then ask:
Why did Moses and Elias appear to Peter, James, and John?
To help students answer this question, display the following statements by the Prophet Joseph Smith (1805–44) and President Joseph F. Smith (1838–1918):
“The Savior, Moses, and Elias [Elijah], gave the keys to Peter, James, and John, on the mount, when they were transfigured before him” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith , 105).
“The Priesthood in general is the authority given to man to act for God. Every man ordained to any degree of the Priesthood has this authority delegated to him.
“But it is necessary that every act performed under this authority shall be done at the proper time and place, in the proper way, and after the proper order. The power of directing these labors constitutes the keys of the Priesthood” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith , 141).
Point out that we learn in Doctrine and Covenants 110 that Moses and Elijah also appeared to the Prophet Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in the Kirtland Temple and conferred priesthood keys upon them. This account in the Doctrine and Covenants helps us understand what took place on the Mount of Transfiguration. You may want to suggest that students write Doctrine and Covenants 110:13–16 as a cross-reference in the margin next to Matthew 17:1–8.
Follow up by asking the following questions:
Why would it be important for Jesus’s Apostles to have priesthood keys? (Students may use different words, but they should express the following truth: Jesus conferred priesthood keys upon His Apostles so they would have authority to direct the Church both before and after His death. You might emphasize that from an eternal perspective, keys are critical in establishing and maintaining order in the Lord’s Church, thus helping to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.)
How did Peter, James, and John’s experience on the Mount of Transfiguration help prepare them to lead the Church following the Savior’s death?
You may want to explain that in Matthew 18:18–19 we learn that priesthood keys were given to all of Jesus’s Apostles.
Write the following statement on the board:
What might Jesus’s Apostles have needed to learn in order to lead the Church?
Copy some or all of the following scripture references on the board:
Assign students to work in pairs to study one or two of these passages and to consider what principles the Apostles may have learned from their experiences with the Savior. Then invite students to share with the class what they discussed. You may want to write their answers on the board. Then ask follow-up questions such as the following:
Why would it be important for the Apostles to learn these principles?
How do you think the Savior has prepared modern Apostles to serve?
How does knowing that Jesus Christ guides His Apostles help you to trust their counsel?
Tell students that Acts 1 contains an account of the Apostles’ selection of Judas Iscariot’s replacement, following the Savior’s resurrection. Invite students to read Acts 1:21–22 and identify the requirement the new Apostle needed to meet.
What were the qualifications for the new Apostle? (He “companied with [them]” and was a “witness … of [the Savior’s] resurrection.”)
Ask students to review the following passages and identify what they have in common: Acts 2:22–24, 32; Acts 3:12–16; Acts 4:31–33; and Acts 5:29–32. After sufficient time, ask them to discuss their findings. (Ensure students recognize that the Apostles fulfilled their commission to bear witness of Jesus Christ.)
Invite students to consider how the commission of modern Apostles mirrors that of the early Apostles. Ask a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 107:23 aloud. Then ask the class:
What doctrine is taught in this verse? (Students should recognize that Apostles are commissioned to be special witnesses of the name of Christ in all the world.)
How have you observed modern Apostles fulfilling this responsibility?
Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
“After all the years that I have lived and taught and served, after the millions of miles I have traveled around the world, with all that I have experienced, there is one great truth that I would share. That is my witness of the Savior Jesus Christ. …
“I bear my witness that the Savior lives. I know the Lord. I am His witness. I know of His great sacrifice and eternal love for all of Heavenly Father’s children. I bear my special witness in all humility but with absolute certainty” (“The Witness,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2014, 97).
When have you felt the power of an Apostle’s testimony of Jesus Christ, and how has it influenced your testimony?
How can you know that the witness modern Apostles bear of Jesus Christ is true? (Students should identify the following truth: Through the Holy Ghost, I can know that the witness living Apostles bear of Jesus Christ is true.)
Challenge students to select a witness of Christ given by a modern Apostle and to prayerfully identify someone with whom they can share it. Encourage them to personally testify that the Apostle’s message is true.