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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 women 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)

Boyd K. Packer, “The Twelve,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2008, 83–87

Russell M. Nelson, “Keys of the Priesthood,” Ensign, Nov. 1987, 36–39

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

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

Video: “The Restoration of Priesthood Keys”

Share experiences

At the beginning of each class, invite the young women to share, teach, and testify about the experiences they have had applying what they learned in the previous week’s lesson. This will encourage personal conversion and help the young women see the relevance of the gospel in their daily lives.

Introduce the doctrine

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

  • Ask the young women, “What are priesthood keys?” Then read to the young women the paragraph at the beginning of this outline, and ask them why the word keys is helpful to describe how the use of the priesthood is governed.
  • Invite the young women to ponder and answer questions like the following: What are priesthood keys? Who holds priesthood keys in the Church? Encourage them to look for answers in “Priesthood Keys,” True to the Faith, 126–27. 

Learn together

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

  • In his talk “Keys of the Priesthood,” Elder Russell M. Nelson uses an example from his profession as a doctor to explain priesthood keys. Read his example as a class. What in this analogy could represent the priesthood? priesthood keys? priesthood leaders who hold keys? Invite the young women 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 the young women to read each of the scriptures and write a one-sentence summary of what they learn about priesthood keys from the verses. Ask each young woman to read one of her summaries aloud, and ask the other young women to identify which scripture she is summarizing. Ask the young women why it is important to them that the priesthood keys are on the earth today.
  • Ask the young women to read the first three paragraphs and the story about visiting a church in Denmark from President Boyd K. Packer’s talk “The Twelve” (or they could watch the video “The Restoration of Priesthood Keys”). Invite them to teach each other what they learn about priesthood keys from these talks. What blessings have come to them through the service of those who hold priesthood keys?
  • Invite each young woman 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 her own words, what she learns about priesthood keys. Give the young women time to share what they write and to ask any questions they have about priesthood keys. 

Ask the young women 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 helpful to spend more time on this doctrine?

Live what we are learning

Invite the young women to consider how they will live what they have learned today. For example, they could:

  • Look for ways they are blessed by the service of those who hold priesthood keys.
  • Teach a family member what they learned about priesthood keys.