Chapter 14: The Transfiguration of Christ

The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles, (1979), 100–105

Map Chp. 14

The Galilean Ministry





Capernaum, Galilee

He Speaks Regarding Signs




Bethsaida, Tetrarchy of Phillip




Near Caesarea Philippi

Peter’s Testimony





Jesus Foretells Death and Resurrection


8:31–38; 9:1



Mt. Hermon, Syria, or Mt. Tabor, Galilee

Transfiguration of Christ





He Heals the Boy Possessed by an Evil Spirit






He again Tours Galilee and Foretells Death and Resurrection

17:22, 23




Capernaum, Galilee

Tribute Money



Discourses on Humility, Forgiveness, Sealing Power, Responsibility of Disciples, and Sacrifice





Seventy Sent Forth




Interpretive Commentary

(14-1) Matthew 16:17, 18. What Is the Solid Rock upon Which the True Church Stands?

“It is fruitless for uninspired scriptural exegesists to argue and debate about this passage in an attempt to sustain the particular leanings with which they chance to have encumbered themselves. What does it matter that the name Peter in Greek happens to mean a rock or a stone? What difference does it make that Peter was promised the gift of seership, or anything else for that matter? And what bearing does it have on the problem to show that all of the Twelve held all of the keys of the kingdom? None of these things establish the divinity of any false church.

“But suppose it were true that the wholly untenable apostate view were correct, and that the Lord had set up his kingdom with Peter as the rock, still any church claiming to trace its authority back to Peter would be a false church unless it believed in and operated on the principles of modern revelation. Why? Simply because conditions are so different in the world today that a church without daily revelation cannot make the change necessary to meet those new conditions. How would the modern church know what stand to take with reference to the use of tobacco, or coffee, or the atomic bomb, or motion pictures, or television, or a thousand things that were not so much as known to men in Peter’s day?

“Clearly it is only by revelation that the Lord establishes his work among men. In the final analysis, no person can have conclusive knowledge as to the true meaning of this passage without revelation from that God who is no respecter of persons and who giveth wisdom liberally to all who ask of him in faith. And how can those who deny the very existence of revelation for this age, and who deliberately refrain from seeking such for themselves, how can they, in their uninspired state, ever come to a sure knowledge of this or any other eternal, spiritual truth?” (McConkie, DNTC, 1:387.)

(14-2) Matthew 16:19. What Are the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven?

“These keys include the sealing power, that is, the power to bind and seal on earth, in the Lord’s name and by his authorization, and to have the act ratified in heaven. Thus if Peter performed baptism by the authority of the sealing power here promised him, that ordinance would be of full force and validity when the person for whom it was performed went into the eternal worlds, and it would then admit him to the celestial heaven. Again, if Peter used these sealing keys to perform a marriage, then those so united in eternal marriage would continue as husband and wife forever. When they attained their future heaven, they would find themselves bound together in the family unit the same as they were on earth. (Mormon Doctrine, pp. 615–16.)” (McConkie, DNTC, 1:389–90.)

(14-3) Matthew 16:19. Is There a Special Significance to Jesus’ Statement That Peter Would Receive the Keys of the Kingdom?

“In other words, Peter, holding the keys of the kingdom, was as much the president of the High Priesthood in his day as Joseph Smith and his successors, to whom also these ‘keys’ were given in our day, are the presidents of the High Priesthood, and the earthly heads of the Church and kingdom of God on the earth.” (Harold B. Lee in CR, Oct. 1953, p. 25.)

(14-4) Matthew 16:24. “Take Up [Your] Cross and Follow Me”

The Inspired Version of the Bible says that “for a man to take up his cross, is to deny himself all ungodliness, and every worldly lust, and keep my commandments.” (Matthew 16:26, Inspired Version.)

(14-5) Matthew 17:1–9. Why Were Peter, James, and John Singled Out to Receive Special Privileges, Keys, and Blessings?

“They alone witnessed the raising of Jairus’ daughter from the dead. (Mark 5:22–24, 35–43.) They alone beheld the glory and majesty of the transfigured Jesus; they alone received from him, and from Moses and Elijah the keys of the kingdom, being prohibited from so much as telling the others of the Twelve of these transcendent events until after our Lord’s resurrection. They alone were taken to a spot in Gethsemane where they could behold his agony as he took upon himself the sins of the world. (Mark 14:32–42.) They were the ones who came to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in this dispensation to confer priesthood and keys. (D. & C. 27:12–13; 128:20.)

“Why always these three and not various ones or even all of the Twelve. The plain fact is that Peter, James, and John were the First Presidency of the Church in their day. … by latter-day revelation we know that they held and restored ‘the keys of the kingdom, which belong always unto the Presidency of the High Priesthood’ (D&C 81:2), or in other words, they were the First Presidency in their day. (McConkie, DNTC, 1:401–2.)

“In the days of Christ’s ministry he called the first apostles who were ever ordained to that office so far as we have any knowledge. He conferred upon them all the power and authority of the priesthood. He also appointed three of these Twelve to take the keys of presidency. Peter, James, and John, acted as the First Presidency of the Church in their day.” (Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 3:152. See also D&C 7:7; 27:12, 13.)

(14-6) Matthew 17:3, 4. What Was Important about the Appearance of Moses and Elijah?

“Moses, the great prophet-statesman whose name symbolized the law, and Elijah the Tishbite, a prophet of so great fame that his name had come to typify and symbolize the collective wisdom and insight of all the prophets. Moses held the keys of the gathering of Israel and the leading of the ten tribes from the land of the north; Elijah, the keys of the sealing power. These are the keys which they conferred upon Peter, James, and John upon the mount, and which they also conferred upon Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in the Kirtland Temple nearly two thousand years later. (D. & C. 110:11–16.) Both of them were translated beings and had bodies of flesh and bones, a status they apparently enjoyed so that they could confer keys upon mortal men. We have a detailed scriptural account of Elijah’s translation (2 Kings 2) and a number of scriptural references concerning Moses which can only be interpreted to mean that he too was taken to heaven without tasting death. (Alma 45:18–19; Mormon Doctrine, pp. 726–730; Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 2, pp. 107–111.) When these two holy men appeared in this dispensation to restore again their keys and powers, they came as resurrected personages. (D. & C. 133:55.)” (McConkie, DNTC, 1:402–3.)

(14-7) Matthew 18:15–17, 21–35. Are There Limits to Forgiveness? If So, How Is This Principle Applied to the Teachings of Jesus?

Regarding limitations placed on us to forgive our fellowmen, read these scriptures:

Matthew 18:21, 22; D&C 98:23–48; D&C 64:7–11.

(14-8) Matthew 18:6. What Is Meant by the Statement “Whoso Shall Offend One of These Little Ones”?

Little ones are children and those who have become as little children by conforming to the principles of the gospel. To “offend one of these little ones,” to cause to stumble or falter because of false example or doctrine, is a grievous sin indeed. The Savior taught that in some cases it would have been better for a person never to have been born than for him to have blocked the eternal progress of another. (See McConkie, DNTC, 1:420.)

(14-9) Matthew 18:17. Is It Necessary to Discuss One’s Transgression with Church Leaders?

“The function of proper Church leaders in the matter of forgiveness is twofold: (1) to exact proper penalty—for example, to initiate official action in regard to the sinner in cases which warrant either disfellowshipment or excommunication; (2) to waive penalties and extend the hand of fellowship to the one in transgression. Whichever of the two steps is taken, either forgiveness or Church disciplinary action, it must be done in the light of all the facts and the inspiration which can come to those making the decision. Hence the importance of the repentant transgressor making full confession to the appropriate authority.” (Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness, pp. 325–26.)

Points to Ponder

(14-10) The Importance of Priesthood Keys

Various priesthood keys were held by Adam, Noah, the heads of gospel dispensations, and other mighty prophets. President Wilford Woodruff said that Joseph Smith told the Twelve Apostles that he had sealed upon them all keys, rights, authorities, and sealing powers. (See Durham, Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, pp. 71–73.)

At the time of his ordination as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, each apostle is blessed with all of the keys of the priesthood which are currently available to man on the earth. Although each holds the keys, only the presiding officer of the Church can exercise them fully. Upon the dissolution of the First Presidency, the senior member of the Quorum of the Twelve, having been called and sustained prior to all other living members of the Twelve, may then exercise these keys in their fulness.

Read and mark D&C 132:7.

“… we have the holy priesthood and … the keys of the kingdom. …” (Joseph Fielding Smith in CR, Apr. 1972, p. 99.)

As an example of how one of the apostles received the keys of the priesthood, consider how the keys were given to Spencer W. Kimball, a modern prophet.

(see following pages)

(14-11) Summary

All things were done in proper order during the Savior’s ministry. The experience on the Mount of Transfiguration marked, among other things, the granting of important revelation and keys to those who would soon preside over Christ’s church of the meridian dispensation.