Today is the anniversary of the day when Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery received the Aaronic priesthood by the laying on of hands by the very person who held that priesthood in the Savior’s day: John the Baptist. Consider it! An angel sent from the presence of God came to restore priesthood authority to the earth — the same authority that led the Savior Himself to ask John the Baptist to baptize Him!
It’s no small thing to proclaim the reality of the ministering of authorized angels, but that is precisely what The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints proclaims. And the process of this restoration of truth and authority began with the visitation of God the Father and Jesus Christ to Joseph Smith.
So what does the restoration of the Aaronic priesthood mean for all of us? When John the Baptist gave Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery the Aaronic priesthood, 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….” (D&C 13:1)
We also read that:
“The lesser priesthood … holdeth the key of the ministering of angels and the preparatory gospel;
“Which gospel is the gospel of repentance and of baptism, and the remission of sins” (D&C 84:26–27).
Often when we speak of priesthood, we speak of those who hold it or hold offices within it. But the heart of what priesthood means is what blessings it unlocks to each of us, if we are willing to receive those blessings.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks says this about Aaronic priesthood:
What does it mean that the Aaronic Priesthood holds “the key of the ministering of angels” and of the “gospel of repentance and of baptism, and the remission of sins”? The meaning is found in the ordinance of baptism and in the sacrament. Baptism is for the remission of sins, and the sacrament is a renewal of the covenants and blessings of baptism. Both should be preceded by repentance. When we keep the covenants made in these ordinances, we are promised that we will always have His Spirit to be with us. The ministering of angels is one of the manifestations of that Spirit….
[T]hrough 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 Ne. 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 doctrine of the Aaronic priesthood does not limit the blessings of the ministering of angels or baptism or repentance or remission of sins. It’s a marvelous thing to ponder what priesthood ordinances and covenants can mean in our lives, to ponder what the sacrament is about.
For me, when the young men who hold the Aaronic priesthood pass the sacrament (an ordinance that has been tied to delegated priesthood authority since ancient times — see 3 Nephi 18:5), I imagine in my mind’s eye what the people of Bountiful experienced. I imagine Him being the One inviting those who hold His priesthood to minister in this way, with Him watching by and guiding the process.
I marvel at the message of the Restoration and am so grateful for the power, perspective, and peace that the doctrine around priesthood ordinances brings into my life. I am grateful to know that the priesthood of God is on the earth, and that the blessings of the priesthood are available to all who will receive them.
“[The Lord] doeth nothing save it be plain unto the children of men; and he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God….” (2 Ne. 26:33)