Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Excerpted from Conference Report, Oct. 1998, 50–52; or Ensign, Nov. 1998, 38–40.
The Key of the Gospel of Repentance
“To have the continuous companionship of the Holy Ghost is the most precious possession we can have in mortality. The gift of the Holy Ghost was conferred upon us by the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood after our baptism. But to realize the blessings of that gift, we must keep ourselves free from sin. When we commit sin, we become unclean and the Spirit of the Lord withdraws from us. …
“Not one of you young [people] and not one of your leaders has lived without sin since … baptism. Without some provision for further cleansing after our baptism, each of us is lost to things spiritual. We cannot have the companionship of the Holy Ghost, and at the final judgment we would be bound to be ‘cast off forever’ (1 Nephi 10:21). How grateful we are that the Lord has provided a process for each baptized member of His Church to be periodically cleansed from the soil of sin. The sacrament is an essential part of that process.
The Key of Baptism by Immersion for the Remission of Sins
“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. In this way we are made clean and can always have His Spirit to be with us. …
“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 Key of the Ministering of Angels
“In a closely related way, these ordinances of the Aaronic Priesthood are also vital to the ministering of angels.
“‘The word “angel” is used in the scriptures for any heavenly being bearing God’s message’ (George Q. Cannon, Gospel Truth, sel. Jerreld L. Newquist , 54). The scriptures recite numerous instances where an angel appeared personally. …
“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. …
“… Most angelic communications are felt or heard rather than seen.
“How does the Aaronic Priesthood hold the key to the ministering of angels? The answer is the same as for the Spirit of the Lord.
“In general, the blessings of spiritual companionship and communication are available only to those who are clean. As explained earlier, through the Aaronic Priesthood ordinances of baptism and the sacrament, we are cleansed of our sins and promised that if we keep our covenants we will always have His Spirit to be with us. I believe that promise not only refers to the Holy Ghost but also to the ministering of angels, for ‘angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ’ (2 Nephi 32:3). 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 holds the keys of ‘the gospel of repentance and of baptism, and the remission of sins’ (D&C 84:27). The cleansing power of our Savior’s Atonement is renewed for us as we partake of the sacrament. The promise that we ‘may always have his Spirit to be with [us]’ (D&C 20:77) is essential to our spirituality. The ordinances of the Aaronic Priesthood are vital to all of this.”
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