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What are the keys of the priesthood?

Priesthood keys are the authority Heavenly Father has given to priesthood leaders to direct the use of His priesthood on earth. Jesus Christ holds all priesthood keys. “The keys of this dispensation,” which are necessary to lead the Church, were conferred on the Prophet Joseph Smith (see D&C 110:16). Today the members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles hold those keys. Priesthood keys are also given to the Presidency of the Seventy; presidents of temples, missions, stakes, and districts; bishops; branch presidents; and quorum presidents—including Aaronic Priesthood quorum presidents.

Prepare yourself spiritually

Prayerfully study these scriptures and resources. What will help the young men understand priesthood keys?

Matthew 16:18–19 (Peter is promised the keys of the kingdom of God)

Mosiah 25:19 (Mosiah authorizes Alma to establish the Church)

D&C 65:2 (Priesthood keys are necessary for the gospel to go forth)

D&C 124:123, 142–43 (Presidents hold priesthood keys to govern the work of the ministry)

D&C 132:7 (The President of the Church is the only person on earth authorized to exercise all priesthood keys)

Gary E. Stevenson, “Where Are the Keys and Authority of the Priesthood?Ensign or Liahona, May 2016, 29–32

Dallin H. Oaks, “The Keys and Authority of the Priesthood,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2014, 49–52

Priesthood Keys,” True to the Faith (2004) 126–27

Videos: “Learn Your Duty”; “The Restoration of Priesthood Keys”; “The Priesthood, an Opportunity to Serve”

Let the young men lead

A member of the quorum presidency (or an assistant to the bishop in the priests quorum) conducts the quorum meeting. He leads the young men in counseling together about quorum business, teaches them their priesthood duties (from the scriptures and the Duty to God book), encourages them to share their experiences fulfilling their duty to God, and invites an adviser or other quorum member to teach a gospel lesson. He could prepare by filling out a quorum meeting agenda during a presidency meeting.

Begin the learning experience

Choose from these ideas or think of your own to review last week’s lesson and introduce this week’s lesson:

  • Invite two young men to share something they remember from last week’s lesson and how it has influenced their actions during the week.
  • Invite the young men to discuss the following scenario: If you were traveling and away from a church, could you administer the sacrament to your family? As part of this discussion, invite them to ponder and answer questions like the following: What are priesthood keys? Who holds priesthood keys in the Church? Encourage the young men to look for answers as they read “Priesthood Keys,” on pages 126–27 in True to the Faith or watch the video “The Restoration of Priesthood Keys.”

Learn together

Each of the activities below will help quorum members understand priesthood keys. Following the inspiration of the Spirit, select one or more that will work best for your quorum:

  • In preparation for quorum meeting, invite the quorum president to review the video “The Priesthood, an Opportunity to Serve.” Ask him to share during quorum meeting what he learned about what it means to hold priesthood keys. He could do this as part of his Duty to God plan to learn and teach about the priesthood and priesthood keys (see “Understand Doctrine,” page 18, 42, or 66).
  • In his talk “Where Are the Keys and Authority of the Priesthood?” Elder Gary E. Stevenson explains priesthood keys by comparing them to car keys. As the young men read this analogy, direct them to look for what in the analogy represents the priesthood, priesthood keys, and priesthood leaders who hold keys. In what ways does Elder Stevenson suggest that young people can “find the keys”? How can we follow his counsel? Invite the young men to think of their own object lesson that they could use to explain priesthood keys.
  • Write the following scripture references on the board: Matthew 16:18–19; D&C 124:123, 142–43; D&C 132:7. Invite quorum members to read each of the scriptures and write a one-sentence summary of what they learn about priesthood keys from the verses. Have each young man read one of his summaries aloud, and ask the other young men to identify which scripture he is summarizing. Ask the quorum members why it is important to them that the priesthood keys are on the earth today.
  • Show the video “Learn Your Duty.” What does Brother Gibson invite quorum presidencies to do? What does he invite quorum members and advisers to do? What will we do to act on his invitations? Consider inviting the quorum president to lead this discussion.
  • Invite each quorum member to read section III of Elder Dallin H. Oaks’s talk “The Keys and Authority of the Priesthood” and write a brief paragraph summarizing, in his own words, what he learns about priesthood keys. Give the young men time to share what they write and to ask any questions they have about priesthood keys. 

Ask the young men to share what they learned today. Do they understand the keys of the priesthood better? What feelings or impressions do they have? Do they have any additional questions? Would it be worthwhile to spend more time on this doctrine?

Invite to act

The young man who is conducting concludes the meeting. He could:

  • Share his feelings about the responsibility of holding priesthood keys.
  • Invite quorum members to share with their families what they learned today.