There is no shortage of material for this subject in past lesson manuals — lessons on the same theme appear in manuals for adults and for children, in Sunday School, Priesthood quorums, Relief Society, Primary, and Seminary.

Lesson 8: The Restoration of the Priesthood

1894: Deseret Sunday School Union Leaflets

Lesson 56: The Priesthood Restored

Time. – May 15, and June, 1829.
Place. – Near Harmony, Susquehanna Co., Pa.
Text. – Exodus, 28:1. Alma, 13:8, 9.

And take thou unto thee, Aaron thy brother, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel, that he may minister unto me in the priest’s office.

Now they were ordained after this manner: Being called with a holy calling, and ordained with a holy ordinance, and taking upon them the High Priesthood of the holy order, which calling, and ordinance, and High Priesthood, is without beginning or end:

Thus they become High Priests for ever, after the order of the Son, the Only Begotten of the Father, who is without beginning of days or end of years, who is full of grace, equity, and truth. And thus it is. Amen.

1. Leviticus 8:2. Numbers 18:7. II Chronicles 26:18, 21. Hebrews 5:1, 4.

2. Mosiah 29:42.

Lesson Statement.

The work of translation proceeded rather slowly, Martin Harris acting as scribe and writing from the Prophet’s dictation. it is impracticable here to enter into all the details of this labor. During the progress of the work Martin brought very deep trouble upon both himself and Joseph by allowing the first 116 pages of manuscript to be lost. For a time it seemed that Joseph would lose his calling for having allowed Martin to take the manuscript away, but by his sincere repentance he regained the favor of God, although his error cost him great sorrow and much additional labor. Martin Harris, however, was never permitted to be his scribe again. his place was filled temporarily by Emma, the wife of Joseph, but she was so bowed down with sorrow with the death of her babe that she could render but little assistance.

It was at this time that Oliver Cowdery, a young school teacher who had received a testimony of the divinity of Joseph’s mission, came and offered to act as a scribe. This offer was most willingly accepted, and the work of translation was resumed April 7, 1829.

While proceeding with their work, they came to a passage in the record referring to baptism for the remission of sins, and desiring light on this subject, on the 15 of May, 1829, they went into the woods to pray. As they were thus engaged, an angel appeared to them, announcing himself as John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ and the one who baptized Him. Laying his hands upon their heads, he said, “Upon you my fellow-servants, in the name of Messiah, I confer the priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels and of the gospel of repentance and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; and this shall never be taken again from the earth until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness.”

He then gave them instructions as to the powers of the Aaronic Priesthood, and told them to baptize each other for the remission of their sins. After John the Baptist left them they followed out his instructions and experienced such joy as they had never before known.

During the month following this event the work of translation proceeded, and many persons became convinced of the truth of Joseph’s teaching. Eleven of these were chosen as witnesses to the record, and their testimony is found in the commencement of the Book of Mormon. This record was at last completed and published, and the plates were given back to Moroni.

In the month of June, 1829, Peter, James, and John, three of Christ’s apostles appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, and bestowed upon them the Melchisedek Priesthood, giving them instructions as to its powers. thus the Holy Priesthood, in all its glory, was restored to the earth in our day.


Aaronic Priesthood. – Named after Aaron, the brother of Moses (see Exodus, 28.) It embraces the callings of Deacon, Teacher and Priest, and includes the duties of the Bishopric. Its labors are largely devoted to temporal affairs.

Melchisedek Priesthood. – The higher grade of the Priesthood, and named after Melchisedek, (see Genesis 14, 18-20.) It comprises the callings of Elder, Seventy, high Priest, Patriarch and Apostle, and embraces the lesser Aaronic Priesthood, that is, a man holding any degree of the Melchisedek Priesthood can officiate as a Priest, Teacher or Deacon. The term priesthood really expresses the authority given to men to act in the name of the Lord.

James. – A son of Zebedee and one of the Twelve apostles; when called to this holy calling he and his brother John were fishermen on the Sea of Galilee. From the time of his call he became, with Peter and John, one of the most trusted of the Savior’s friends. These three appear to have been with Him on many important occasions when none of the other apostles were present and to have received divine manifestations and a knowledge of heavenly things with which the rest of the disciples were not blessed. James was slain by Herod Agrippa at Jerusalem, A.D. 44. – Acts 12:1, 2.

John. – The son of Zebedee and a brother of James. he is especially known as the disciple whom Jesus loved. He was called to be an apostle at the same time as his brother, and like him was one of the most intimate friends of the Savior. He was with Jesus in the glory of the transfiguration, in the agony at Gethsemane, at the trial of the Savior before the High Priest and before Pilate. He was the first of all the apostles to reach the sepulchre when Mary brought the strange news of Christ’s resurrection. to him the promise was given that he should tarry in the flesh until the savior again came. After the death of Jesus, John spent much of his time in and about Jerusalem; but in later years went to Ephesus. Tradition says he was afterwards taken to Rome, and in the persecution of the Saints under Domitian he was cast into a cauldron of boiling oil, which, however, did not hurt him. He was then sentenced to work in the mines on the Island of Patmos, where he wrote his Revelation, but being afterwards released he returned to Ephesus. Here history loses sight of him.

What We May Learn from This Lesson.

1. That men are likely to gain the displeasure of God if they are too self willed. 2. that much trouble may be brought upon a servant of God by the foolishness of another person. 3. That Oliver Cowdery was inspired to come to Joseph in answer to the Prophet’s prayer. 4. That it was necessary for the Priesthood to be restored to the earth by those who last held the keys of it. 5. that the remission of sins by baptism is followed by divine joy. 6. That John the Baptist conferred the lesser Priesthood on Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. 7. that the apostles Peter, James and John conferred the Melchisedek Priesthood upon Joseph and Oliver and ordained them Apostles.

Questions on the Lesson.

1. What caused Martin Harris to be rejected as Joseph’s scribe? 2. How did the Prophet regain the favor of God? 3. Why could Joseph’s wife not render much assistance? 4. How was a scribe finally supplied? 5. What do you know of Oliver Cowdery? 6. What passage in the record did Joseph and Oliver desire to better understand? 7. What did they do? 8. How were their prayers answered? 9. What do you know of John the Baptist? 10. Repeat the words he used in conferring the Priesthood upon them. 11. What did he tell them to do? 12. What feeling followed the performance of this ordinance? 13. What was the date when this event occurred? 14. When was the translation of the Book of Mormon completed? 15. What did Joseph then do with the plates? 16. What event occurred in June, 1829? 17. What do you know of Peter? 18. Of James? 19. Of John? 20. What is the Priesthood? 21. What are the powers and offices of the Aaronic Priesthood? 222. From whom was it named? 23. Tell what you know of the Melchisedek Priesthood. 24. After whom was it named?

Illustrative Passages.

The Priesthood. – If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of melchisedek, and not be called after the order of Aaron? for the Priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law. – Hebrews 7: 11, 12.

But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. – I. Peter 2:9.

1949: Doctrine and Covenants Studies, by Bryant S. Hinckley

Chapter 5

How It Was Restored

This is the shortest revelation in the Doctrine and Covenants, but it records an event of great importance. Referring to it, the Prophet Joseph Smith said, “We,” meaning Oliver Cowdery and himself, “still continued the work of translation, when, in the ensuing month, (May, 1829), we on a certain day went into the woods to pray and inquire of the Lord respecting baptism for the remission of sins, that we found mentioned in the translation of the plates. While we were thus employed, praying and calling upon the Lord, a messenger from heaven descended in a cloud of light, and having laid his hands upon us, he ordained us, saying: ‘Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah, I confer the priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; and this shall never be taken again from the earth, until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness.’ (D & C 13.)

“He said this Aaronic Priesthood had not the power of laying on hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, but that this should be conferred on us hereafter; and he commanded us to go and be baptized, and gave us directions that I should baptize Oliver Cowdery, and afterwards that he should baptize me. Accordingly we went and were baptized. I baptized him first, and afterwards he baptized me, after which I laid my hands upon his head and ordained him to the Aaronic Priesthood, and afterwards he laid his hands on me and ordained me to the same priesthood – for so we were commanded.

“The messenger who visited us on this occasion, and conferred this priesthood upon us, said that his name was John, the same that is called John the Baptist in the New Testament, and that he acted under the direction of Peter, James and John, who held the keys of the priesthood of Melchizedek, which priesthood he said would in due time be conferred on us, and that I should be called the first Elder of the Church, and he (Oliver Cowdery) the second. It was on the 15th day of May, 1829, that we were ordained under the hand of this messenger and baptized.” (DHC, Vol. I, pp. 39-41.)

Conferred, Ordained, and Set Apart

Joseph Fielding Smith in discussing this in Church History and Modern Revelation, Vol. 1, page 56, makes this comment: “In his account the Prophet declared that the angel ordained him and Oliver Cowdery. The proper word would have been ‘conferred’ the priesthood. In the early days of the Church the term ‘ordain’ was used in the sense of conferring or setting apart. The distinction which we make today between conferring and setting apart and ordaining had not been clearly drawn. John the Baptist, however, used the proper expression. Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, as the record shows, were not ordained to any office, but the priesthood was conferred upon them. All of the offices of the priesthood come out of and are appendages to, the priesthood. (See D & C 107:5.) The priesthood has existed independently of the church at times, but the offices pertain to the church organization and are conferred by the sanction of the Church. This is also true of the bestowal of the Melchizedek Priesthood.”

After baptism, both of these brethren experienced great exaltation of spirit. Joseph said, “No sooner had I baptized Oliver Cowdery, than the Holy Ghost fell upon him, and he stood up and prophesied many things which should shortly come to pass. And again, so soon as I had been baptized by him, I also had the spirit of prophecy, when, standing up, I prophesied concerning the rise of this Church, and many other things connected with the Church, and this generation of the children of men.” (DHC, Vol. I, p. 42.) Notice the words, “Until the sons of Levi do offer an offering, etc.” this would imply that when the sons of Levi offer an offering unto the Lord in righteousness, then the Aaronic Priesthood would be taken from the earth. Oliver Cowdery’s report of the same incident is “shall never be taken from the earth that the sons of Levi may offer an offering unto the Lord in righteousness.”

These words used by the angel, “and this shall never be taken again from the earth, until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness,” have resulted in speculations and aimless discussions. Quoting Joseph Fielding Smith again, “We may be sure that the aaronic Priesthood will never be taken from the earth while mortality endures, for there will always be need for temporal direction and the performance of ordinances pertaining to the preparatory gospel.” (CHMR, Vol. I, p. 57.)

Words of Oliver Cowdery

Oliver Cowdery’s description of the event was written in 1834 and published in October of that year in the Messenger and Advocate, Volume1, Number 1, page 15. Quoting Oliver’s words (DHC, Vol. I, p. 43): “On a sudden, as from th midst of eternity, the voice of the Redeemer spake peace to us, while the veil was parted and the angel of God came down clothed with glory and delivered the anxiously looked for message, and the keys of the gospel of repentance. What joy! what wonder! what amazement! while the world was racked and distracted – while millions were groping as the blind for the wall, and while all men were resting upon uncertainty, as a general mass, our eyes beheld – our ears heard. As in the ‘blaze of day’; yes, more – above the glitter of the May sunbeam, which then shed its brilliancy over the face of nature! Then his voice, though mild, pierced to the center, and his words, ‘I am thy fellow-servant,’ dispelled every fear. We listened, we gazed, we admired! ’Twas the voice of the angel from glory – ’twas a message from the Most High, and as we heard we rejoiced, while his love enkindled upon our souls, and we were rapt in the vision of the Almighty! Where was room for doubt? Nowhere; uncertainty had fled, doubt had sunk, no more to rise, while fiction and deception had fled forever. But, dear brother, think further, think for a moment what joy filled our hearts and with what surprise we must have bowed, (for who would not have bowed the knee for such a blessing?) when we received under his hands the Holy Priesthood, as he said, ‘Upon you, my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah, I confer this priesthood and this authority, which remain upon the earth, that the sons of Levi may yet offer an offering unto the Lord in righteousness! I shall not attempt to paint to you the feelings of this heart, nor the majestic beauty and glory which surrounded us on this occasion; but you will believe me when I say, that earth, nor men, with the eloquence of time, cannot begin to clothe language in as interesting and sublime a manner as this holy personage. No; nor has this earth power to give the joy, to bestow the peace, or comprehend the wisdom which was contained in each sentence as it was delivered by the power of the Holy Spirit! Man may deceive his fellow-man; deception may follow deception, and the children of the wicked one may have power to seduce the foolish and untaught, till not but fiction feeds the many, and the fruit of falsehood carries in its current the giddy to the grave; but one touch with the finger of his love – yes, one ray of glory from the upper world, or one word from the mouth of the Savior, from the bosom of eternity, strikes it all into insignificance, and blots it forever from the mind! The assurance that we were in the presence of an angel; the certainty that we heard the voice of Jesus, and the truth unsullied as it flowed from a pure personage, dictated by the will of God, is to me, past description, and I shall ever look upon this expression of the Savior’s goodness with wonder and thanksgiving while I am permitted to tarry, and in those mansions where perfection dwells and sin never comes, I hope to adore in that day, which shall never cease.”

In Oliver’s account, there could be little question about the meaning of the words of the angel. The priesthood was to remain that the sons of Levi may offer an offering in righteousness unto the Lord. This priesthood which the Prophet and Oliver received under the hands of John the Baptist holds the keys of the ministering of angels and the preparatory gospel which is the gospel of repentance and of baptism and the remission of sins. The priesthood is briefly explained as the power or authority which God confers upon men to act in his name. Hence those who received it were commissioned to teach in the name which signifies the authority of God. They could call men to repentance in that authority. They could baptize men in that authority for the remission of their sins, but they could not confer the Holy Ghost. This priesthood was intended to prepare the way for higher things. It was the priesthood of the preparatory gospel.

Who Were the Levites?

After the Children of Israel came out of Egypt and while they were sojourning in the wilderness, Moses received a commandment from the Lord to take Aaron and his sons and ordain them and consecrate them as priests for the people. At that time the males of the entire tribe of Levi were chosen to be priests instead of the first born of all the tribes, and Aaron and his sons were given the presidency over the priesthood thus conferred. Since that time, it has been known as the priesthood of Aaron, including the Levitical priesthood. Quoting from Joseph Fielding Smith: “It should be remembered that the Melchizedek Priesthood was withdrawn from the people when Moses was taken away, so that the Aaronic Priesthood remained with carnal law or the law of Moses, until the coming of Jesus Christ. In the calling of Aaron and his sons, the Lord made it known that this presiding authority over the priesthood should be handed down from father to son. This was true also of the Levitical, which is a division of the Aaronic. All who were of the tribe of Levi were entitled to be priests, and officiate in some capacity in this authority. In making the change and choosing the Levites instead of the first born of all the tribes, the Lord said, ‘And I, behold, I have taken the Levites from among the children of Israel instead of the first born … therefore the Levites shall be mine; because all the first born are mine; for on the day that I smote all the first born in the land of Egypt I hallowed unto me all of the first born in Israel, both man and beast; mine shall they be: I am the Lord.” … So the Levitical priesthood conferred upon the men of the tribe of Levi was subject to the authority of Aaron and was a part of the Aaronic Priesthood. It was the duty of the Levites to assist the priests of Aaron.” (CHMR, Vol. I, p. 58.)

Some of their principal duties are stated in the Book of Numbers. The question often arises, what will be the nature of the offering that will be made by the sons of Levi? While nothing has been given by revelation definitely stating what it will be, the implication in all the scriptures is that it will be just what they did before in ancient Israel. The Prophet Joseph Smith has said, “… it is generally supposed that sacrifice was entirely done away when the Great Sacrifice [i.e., the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus] was offered up, and that there will be no necessity for the ordinance of sacrifice in future; but those who assert this are certainly not acquainted with the duties, privileges and authority of the priesthood, or with the Prophets. … These sacrifices, as well as every ordinance belonging to the priesthood, will, when the temple of the Lord shall be built, and the sons of Levi be purified, be fully restored and attended to in all their powers, ramifications, and blessings.” (DHC, Vol. IV, p. 211.)

Chapter 8

The 20th Section of the Doctrine and Covenants contains 84 verses and seems to be a series of short revelations received prior to the organization of the Church, setting forth a summary of the events in which the Church had its origin.

This great revelation gives the organization of the church, its basic doctrines, its ordinances, its officers and their duties. It is the ground work and constitution of the Church. It is the law of the Lord for the establishment of his work and for carrying forward its purposes.

For convenience in studying it, we have divided it into three lessons:

I. Divine Authority – What it means and why it is necessary.
II. The Rise of the Church.
III. Teaching in the home.

I. The Restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood.
II. The Nature of the Priesthood (including the offices therein).
III. The Necessity of the Restoration (for the establishment of the Church).
IV. Magnifying the Priesthood.

I. The Restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood

The importance of the Melchizedek Priesthood makes the account of its restoration significant. The priesthood which the Prophet and Oliver Cowdery had received at the hands of John the Baptist holds the keys of the administering of angels and of the preparatory gospel, which is the gospel of repentance and of baptism and of the remission of sins. John explained that he acted under the direction of the ancient apostles, Peter, James, and John, who held the keys of the higher priesthood and when that priesthood should be conferred upon them, Joseph would be ordained the first elder of the church and Oliver the second. About the time the Aaronic Priesthood was conferred, Samuel Smith, the younger brother of the Prophet, came to visit them. He received a manifestation that convinced him of the truth of all that he heard, so he became the first candidate for baptism which was performed by Oliver on the 25th day of May, 1829, just ten days after the restoration of that priesthood. Samuel returned to his home an excited the interest of his brother, Hyrum, who hastened from Palmyra to Harmony to inquire of the Lord concerning the things reported by Samuel and to learn what his relationship to the then unfolding work would be. The Prophet inquired of the Lord and obtained for him a revelation (D & C 11), which declares that “a great and marvelous work is about to come forth among the children of men,” which could not be accomplished without the restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood. The exact date upon which the promise was fulfilled when Peter, James, and John would confer a greater priesthood is not known. We read (D & C 20:2, 3): “Which commandments were given to Joseph Smith, Jun., who was called of God, and ordained an apostle of Jesus Christ, to be the first elder of this Church; and to Oliver Cowdery, who was also called of God, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to be the second elder of this Church, and ordained under his hand.”

As to the time when the Melchizedek Priesthood was restored, Brigham H. Roberts makes this deduction: “The period named in the text within which this important event occurred – between May 15, 1829, and April, 1830 – is fixed upon because of its absolute certainty. It is held by some, however, that the period within which the ordination took place may be still further reduced. In a revelation, bearing the date of June, 1829, making known the calling of the twelve apostles in these last days, and addressed to Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer, the Lord said: ‘I speak unto you, even as unto Paul mine apostle, for you are called even with that same calling with which he was called.’ (D & C 18:9.)” (CHC, Vol. I, p. 183.)

The question arises: Where and when did this momentous and glorious event take place? The answer is not revealed, but, as indicating the place, we quote:

“And again, what do we hear? … The voice of Peter, James, and John in the wilderness between Harmony, Susquehanna county, and Colesville, Broome county, on the Susquehanna river, declaring themselves as possessing the keys of the kingdom, and of the dispensation of the fulness of times!” (D & C 128:20.)

Referring to the time: In September, 1830, the Lord declared:

“and also with Peter, and James, and John, whom I have sent unto you, by whom I have ordained you and confirmed you to be apostles, and especial witnesses of my name, and bear the keys of your ministry and of the same things which I revealed unto them; unto whom I have committed the keys of my kingdom and a dispensation of the gospel for the last times; and for the fulness of times, in the which I will gather together in one all things, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth.” (D & C 27:12, 13.)

He declared: “In the light of these revelations, may we not conclude that Peter, James, and John conferred upon Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery the holy Melchizedek Priesthood in the wilderness, on the banks of the Susquehanna River sometime between May 15th and the latter part of June, 1829?”

II. The Nature and Definition of the Priesthood

No other man has spoken upon this subject with greater plainness or with clearer understanding of its meaning than the late President Joseph F. Smith, who said at the October Conference, 1901:

“What I mean by the Holy Priesthood is that authority which God has delegated to man, by which he may speak the will of God as if the angels were here to speak it themselves; by which men are empowered to bind on earth and it shall be bound in heaven, and to loose on earth and it shall be loosed in heaven; by which the words of man spoken in the exercise of that power, become the word of the Lord, and the law of God unto the people, scripture, and divine commands. It is therefore not good that the Latter-day Saints and the children of the Latter-day Saints should treat lightly this sacred principle of authority which has been revealed from the heavens in the dispensation in which we live. It is the authority by which the Lord Almighty governs his people, and by which, in time to come, he will govern the nations of the world.” (GD, p. 174.)

Quoting President Brigham Young:

“The priesthood of the Son of God, which we have in our midst, is a perfect order and system of government, and this alone can deliver the human family from all the evils which now afflict its members, and insure them happiness and felicity hereafter.

“If anybody wants to know what the priesthood of the son of God is, it is the law by which the worlds are, were, and will continue forever and ever. It is that system which brings worlds into existence and peoples them, gives them their revolutions – their days, weeks, months, years, their seasons and times and by which they are rolled up as a scroll, as it were, and go into a higher state of existence.” (DBY, p. 201.)

III. Necessity for Its Restoration

Before the Church could be organized or any ordinances pertaining to it could be performed, the authority to do these things was essential. It is apparent that without this divine authority the Church could not have been organized. This it is that distinguishes The Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day Saints from all other churches. No one is permitted to officiate in any of the ordinances of the church unless he is ordained by one holding the authority. No one can receive this priesthood except under the hands of one who holds it, so that every holder of the priesthood today should be able to trace his authority to the hands of Joseph Smith the Prophet who received it under the hands of Peter, James, and John. We maintain that no person upon the earth can get this authority from any other source.

IV. Magnifying the Priesthood

President Joseph F. Smith, referring to the priesthood, said, “It is sacred, and it must be held sacred by the people. It should be honored and respected by them, in whomsoever it is held, and in whomsoever responsibility is placed in the Church. The young men and women and the people generally should hold this principle and recognize it as something that is sacred, and cannot be trifled with nor spoken lightly of with impunity. Disregard of this authority leads to darkness and to apostasy, and severance from all the rights and privileges of the house of God; for it is by virtue of this authority that the ordinances of the gospel are performed throughout the world and in every sacred place, and without it they cannot be performed. those also who hold this authority should honor it in themselves. They should live so as to be worthy of the authority vested in them and worthy of the gifts that have been bestowed upon them.” (GD, p. 174.)

It is clear from this comprehensive definition that the thing which distinguishes this church from all other churches upon the face of the earth, that sets it apart as the church of God, is the divine authority conferred upon man in this dispensation.

The officers of the greater priesthood are apostles, prophets, high priests, seventies, and elders. The officers of the lesser priesthood are bishops, priests, teachers and deacons. Both of these priesthoods were conferred upon Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, and as the greater priesthood had power and authority over all the offices in the Church, and they had not only received that priesthood but had also been called to be apostles in it. They were, therefore, perfectly and fully clothed with the authority needful to proceed with the organization of the Church of Jesus Christ.

1966: The Priesthood and You
A Course of Study for the Melchizedek Priesthood Quorums


Lesson Goal

To acquire a deeper understanding of the restoration of the Priesthood, and develop a greater determination to honor this Holy Priesthood.


Have you ever thought about the responsibility that rests upon an ambassador or other diplomat who has been empowered to act in behalf of a nation of men? Have you ever considered the authority of an executive in one of the large corporations or industries of the world and the responsibility incumbent upon him? Perhaps you yourself have an occupation which imposes awesome authority and responsibility upon you in the daily or periodic decisions you are obliged to make! Granted the authority and responsibility suggested here are of momentous import and involve many implications, but how do these compare with or relate to the authority and responsibility of one who holds the Holy Priesthood of God?

(The class teacher at this point could write on the chalkboard these names: John the Baptist; Moses; Elias; Elijah; Peter, James and John.

The class members might be asked to tell how their Priesthood has been affected by visits in this dispensation of these heavenly visitors.)


Anciently Peter called men to repentance and said there would be a time of refreshing which would come with the second coming to the earth of Jesus the Christ. Peter also spoke of “the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all the holy prophets since the world began.” (Acts 3:19-21.)

At present we are concerned with two principal things Peter said: (1) that there would be “times of restitution:” or an age of restoration, and (2) in this age of restoration God would restore all things spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.


In the spring of 1820 God the Eternal father and Jesus Christ the Son of God – the Redeemer of man – appeared to Joseph Smith, Jr., in the woods near Palmyra, New York. They gave him initial instructions in preparation for his modern prophetic calling. In September of 1823, and periodically at least through June of 1829, Moroni, a resurrected being, visited Joseph Smith. Moroni revealed the Book of Mormon to him and further prepared him for his prophetic call. Moroni had been a record keeper and prophet of the ancient inhabitants of the American continent.

Even as John the Baptist received the word of god in the wilderness under angelic guidance, so was Joseph Smith taught by heavenly teachers.


When the period of initial preparation was completed and the Lord was ready for His youthful prophet to act with authority in His name, he sent John the Baptist to him with the keys of the Aaronic Priesthood. It was on May 15, 1829, that John came. John the Baptist indicated “that he acted under the direction of Peter, James and John, who held the keys of the Priesthood of Melchizedek.” (Joseph Smith 2:72.) John laid his hands upon the heads of Joseph Smith, and his associate, Oliver Cowdery. Then John said: “Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah, I confer the Priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the emission of sins; and this shall never be taken again from the earth until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness.” (Joseph Smith 2:69.)

Thus, John, who was especially raised up by God to hold the keys of the aaronic Priesthood and to prepare the way for the Christ, restored the Aaronic Priesthood. The keys of this Lesser Priesthood involve “the ministering of angels and the preparatory gospel; Which gospel is the gospel of repentance and of baptism, and the remission of sins. …” (Doctrine & Covenants 84:26-27.)


Shortly after the restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood, Joseph and Oliver received the Melchizedek Priesthood from Peter, James, and John.

In a revelation later, the Lord referred to Peter, James, and John, and said: “… whom I have sent unto you, by whom I have ordained you and confirmed you to be apostles, and especial witnesses of my name, and bear the keys of your ministry and of the same things which I revealed unto them; Unto whom I have committed the keys of my kingdom, and a dispensation of the gospel for the last times; and for the fulness of times, in the which I will gather together in one all things, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth.” (Doctrine & Covenants 27:12-13.)


On April 3, 1836, after the completion of the Kirtland Temple, four great visions were given to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. In the first vision the Lord Jesus Christ appeared and accepted the temple as His house.

Modern holy writ declares: “After this vision closed, the heavens were again opened unto us; and Moses appeared before us, and committed unto us the keys of the gathering of Israel from the four parts of the earth, and the leading of the ten tribes from the land of the north.

“After this, Elias appeared, and committed the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham, saying that in us and our seed all generations after us should be blessed.

“After this vision had closed, another great and glorious vision burst upon us; for Elijah the prophet, who was taken to heaven without tasting death, stood before us, and said:

Behold, the time has fully come, which was spoken of by the mouth of Malachi – testifying that he [Elijah] should be sent, before the great and dreadful day of the Lord came –

To turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers, lest the whole earth be smitten with a curse –

Therefore, the keys of this dispensation are committed into your hands; and by this ye may know that the great and dreadful day of the Lord is near, even at the doors. (Doctrine & Covenants 110:11-16.)


President Joseph Fielding smith informs us: “The higher ordinances, the greater blessings which are essential to exaltation in the kingdom of God, and which can only be obtained in certain places, no man has a right to perform except as he receives the authority to do it from the one who holds the keys … Elijah restored to this Church and, if they would receive it, to the world, the keys of the sealing power; and that sealing power puts the stamp of approval upon every ordinance that is done in the church and more particular those that are performed in the temples of the Lord.” [McConkie, Bruce R., Compiler, Doctrines of Salvation: Sermons and Writings of Joseph Fielding Smith, Salt Lake City, Bookcraft, 1956. Vol. III, p. 129.] Further: “Some members of the church have been confused in thinking that Elijah came with the keys of baptism for the dead or of salvation for the dead. Elijah’s keys were greater than that. They were the keys of sealing, and those keys of sealing pertain to the living and embrace the dead who are willing to repent.” [Ibid., p. 130.]

In a revelation concerning the Twelve apostles given to the Prophet Joseph Smith after the conferral of keys at the Kirtland Temple, the Lord indicated the power of the Priesthood was given unto the First Presidency and the Twelve “for the last time, in the which is the dispensation of the fulness of times.” He then declared they held the power, “in connection with all those who have received a dispensation at any time from the beginning of the creation; …” and said, “For verily I say unto you the keys of the dispensation, which ye have received, have come down from the fathers, and last of all, being sent down from heaven unto you.” (Doctrine & Covenants 112:30-32.)

In an epistle written by Joseph Smith he names many of those from the ancient world who visited him on various occasions and then records: “… And the voice of Michael, the archangel; the voice of Gabriel, and of Raphael, and of divers angels, from Michael or Adam down tot he present time, all declaring their dispensation, their rights, their keys, their honors, their majesty and glory, an the power of their priesthood; giving line upon line, precept upon precept; here a little, and there a little; giving us consolation by holding forth that which is to come, confirming our hope!” (Doctrine & Covenants 128;21. See also Doctrine & Covenants 132:45-47.)

Thus all of the keys of the Holy Priesthood from previous dispensations were restored to the earth at the beginning of this, the last dispensation of the Gospel.


Prior to the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph Smith he bestowed all of the keys and authorities which he held upon all of the members of the council of the Twelve. President Joseph Fielding Smith says: “All members of the council of the Twelve since that day have also been given all of these keys and powers. But these powers cannot be exercised by any one of them until, if the occasion arises, he is called to be the presiding officer of the Church. The twelve, therefore, in the setting apart of the President do not give him any additional priesthood, but confirm upon him that which he has already received, they set him apart to the office, which it is their right to do.” [Ibid., p. 155.] therefore the keys of the Priesthood are preserved from generation to generation. They are held by each member of the council of the Twelve, although there is only one man on the earth at a time who holds those keys of the Priesthood in the sense that he can exercise or use them in their fulness. In their nature keys are the right and power of presidency, and since only one man can preside over all others, only one man can “hold,” meaning use and exercise, all of the keys at any one time. (Doctrine & Covenants 132:7.)

It is not necessary however for one to hold the keys of the Priesthood, that is, become President of the church, in order to have a fulness of the Priesthood. As President Smith says: “If we want to receive the fulness of the Priesthood of God, then we must receive the fulness of the ordinances of the house of the Lord and keep his commandments. … No man can get the fulness of the Priesthood outside of the temple of the Lord … Every man who is faithful and will receive these ordinances and blessings obtains a fulness of the Priesthood, and the Lord has said that ‘he makes them equal in power, and in might, and in dominion.’” [Ibid., pp. 131-132.]

Thus in the restoration of the Melchisedek Priesthood, with its various keys and authorities, the Lord has provided the means that men may not only repent and be baptized, but that they may go to the temples of the Lord and receive the higher ordinances and a fulness of the Priesthood, so that if they are faithful to their covenants they may become joint heirs with Jesus Christ. [Documentary History of the church, Salt Lake City, Deseret News, 1909, Vol. V, p. 424.]

Hence, the restitution of all things, prophesied by Peter, belongs to the age of the world in which we live. Each man who holds the Melchizedek Priesthood has a tremendous blessing, a gr3eat potential. Through righteousness he may become a joint heir with Jesus the Christ. What greater blessing can a man ask?


As he contemplates the Holy Melchizedek Priesthood which he holds, each class member might ask himself these questions:

(1) Do I have a Book of Remembrance and have I assisted or am I assisting my children to prepare theirs?

(2) Am I doing anything significant in behalf of my forebearers in genealogical research or in temple work?

(3) Do I have an active temple recommend and do I use it regularly?

(4) What am I doing to increase my understanding of the Holy Priesthood and to make it a more integral part of my daily life?

1970-71: Series A, Priesthood Study Course, Teachers Quorum



To learn how the Aaronic Priesthood was restored in latter days, in order that the teacher can feel the importance of this restoration and the reality of “his” priesthood.

Additional Reading:

Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith 2:66-75

Teaching Aids:

1. Chalkboard and chalk
2. Illustration of the statue of the Restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood

Arousing Attention:

Have you ever passed a powerful energy-producing thought through your mind at a moment when you were tired, discouraged, or needed help?

It has been said that Frank Hiller, a great baseball pitcher of major league standing, used such a thought when his energy was almost gone in a critical situation in a game. Can you imagine Hiller in about the seventh inning with the bases loaded and no one out? As Hiller was rubbing up the ball, he would stimulate his mind with the Old Testament scripture:

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31.)

Hiller honestly felt that the use of this scripture in a tight ball game gave him a renewal of strength. His energy was ‘restored,” and he could finish the game in situations where he might easily have faltered and been taken out of the game.

For priesthood bearers a power-producing act was brought about by a prophet of old when he laid his hands on two young men and said: “Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah I confer the Priesthood of Aaron. …” (D&C 13.) This was an act which brought renewed strength to the Prophet Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery at a time when circumstances were difficult. This act, along with the restoration of the melchizedek Priesthood, made it possible for you and me to enjoy the Church of Jesus Christ on the earth today.

A. The Restoration

On May 15, 1829, on the banks of the Susquehanna River at Harmony, Pennsylvania, an event occurred which has literally changed the lives of thousands of young men your age. It was on that occasion that John the Baptist, a resurrected messenger from God, appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver cowdery. John the Baptist conferred the Aaronic Priesthood upon them by the laying on of hands while saying:

Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah I confer the priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; and this shall never be taken again from the earth, until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness. (D&C 13. Italics added.)

B. Witness to the Restoration

It is interesting and important to note that this restoration was made not only to the Prophet Joseph, but also to another sincere and intelligent man. Oliver Cowdery. thus, Bod had established the Aaronic Priesthood on earth again in the eyes of two witnesses, Joseph and Oliver. Throughout his life Oliver Cowdery held firm to his testimony of the divine origin of the Church and the priesthood; his testimony clearly supported the Prophet Joseph.

There are several ways that we can prove an individual, isolated performance to our friends. Some of these are:

2. To accurately report and sincerely testify that you accomplished the feat.

2. To take along a person who is untrustworthy and of poor reputation to watch you and report to others.

3. To take along a witness who has a reputation for great honesty.

Approaches 1 and 2 both suffer form the lack of a reliable witness other than oneself. Clearly, many events in the restoration of the priesthood and the Church were supported by the calling of reliable witnesses, process 3.

C. Process of the Restoration,/strong>

The Aaronic Priesthood was restored by a prophet of whom Christ said: “… there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist. …” (Luke 7:28.) John held the keys of the Aaronic Priesthood prior to the establishment of Christ’s Church. Therefore, it was fitting that John restore this important power and authority in modern times. The restoration was made in the time-honored way, by the laying on of hands. Following the conferral of this authority, the Prophet Joseph baptized Oliver Cowdery, and Oliver then baptized Joseph. The Prophet Joseph records that he then ordained Oliver by the laying on of hands, and in turn, Oliver ordained him.

D. The Restoration – A Source of Power

In 1967, Randy Matson, a husky college track star from Texas A and M, USA, threw the shotput farther than anyone else in the world had ever thrown the large iron ball – 71 feet 5-1/2 inches. where did Matson get this remarkable power? Why had it taken so many years for someone to achieve this feat? These are common questions among sport fans these days. They are difficult to answer, but surely Matson has combined several elements very successfully; namely, a strong, well-conditioned body and mind, excellent technique, and determination to succeed, amplified by a great amount of hard, grinding practice.

As a teacher, the restoration of the priesthood has brought greater power to you than that held by any great athlete. You are an agent of your Heavenly Father, and your power will last forever if you honor and magnify it. when you are inclined to slack off in your duty, consider this powerful thought:

I hold the priesthood of God; “And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.” (Hebrews 5:4.)

The greatest athlete, the greatest scholar, or the greatest leader cannot assume the power of the priesthood on his own. It can only be given by the laying on of hands by one holding the priesthood and acting under proper authorization.

E. An Offering in Righteousness

Misunderstandings often arise concerning the last part of Section 13 in the Doctrine and Covenants where it states, “… until the sons of Levi do offer again, etc.” Oscar W. McConkie, Jr., says:

Shortly after the time of the Second Coming, and as part of the restoration of all things, apparently on a one-time basis, certain levitical ordinances will again be performed in this dispensation. (The Priest in the Aaronic Priesthood, p. 80.)


Every teacher should understand the process and events of the restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood in this dispensation. The same important priesthood conferred upon Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery has been conferred upon all worthy young men of the Aaronic Priesthood today. The power of this priesthood, conferred only by the laying on of hands, can be a great influence for good and for growth in the lives of all young men who honor and magnify their calling.

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