Doctrine & Covenants/Church History
The Restoration of the Priesthood
Definition and purpose of the priesthood.
The restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood.
The restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood.
Blessings of the priesthood for all people.
A study of this lesson will help us increase our appreciation for the
restoration of the priesthood, to encourage brethren to magnify their offices
and callings in the priesthood, and to help all members enjoy more fully the
blessings of the priesthood.
Scripture references for study:
Joseph Smith—History 1:66–73;
Note: Underlined scripture references have been hyperlinked
to the LDS Scriptures at LDS.org and will open in a new window.
Lesson 8 Handout (PDF)
Restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood
Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery began the work of translation on April
7 (1829) and continued almost non-stop. When they came to the instructions
of the Savior to the Nephites on the subject of baptism, Oliver said that
it became apparent that "none had authority from God
to administer the ordinances of the Gospel." (footnote, Joseph
The restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood occurred on May 15, 1829, near Harmony, Pennsylvania.
Joseph says in his history, "We on a certain day
went into the woods to pray and inquire of the Lord respecting baptism
for the remission of sins" (JS-History 1:68).
Joseph continues his account: "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" (JS-History 1:68-69)
In his ordination, John the Baptist:
Conferred upon them the authority of the Aaronic Priesthood.
Gave them the keys of the Aaronic Priesthood.
The keys of presidency in the Aaronic Priesthood.
The right to preside in the Aaronic Priesthood.
The right to authorize either themselves or someone else to use the Aaronic
According to the record, after receiving the priesthood from John, Joseph
baptized Oliver, then Oliver baptized Joseph. After they were baptized,
according to the Prophet, "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" (JS-History 1:71).
What a glorious event this must have been. Consider the words of
both Joseph and Oliver:
Joseph Smith: "Immediately on our coming
up out of the water after we had been baptized, we experienced great and
glorious blessings from our Heavenly Father. 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.
We were filled with the Holy Ghost, and rejoiced in the God of our salvation. Our minds being now enlightened, we began to have the scriptures laid open
to our understandings, and the true meaning and intention of their more
mysterious passages revealed unto us in a manner which we never could attain
to previously, nor ever before had thought of." (JS-History
Oliver Cowdery: "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 they were delivered
by the power of the Holy Spirit!" (footnote, Joseph Smith-History)
So significant was this event in the eternal war between good and evil
that Satan himself appeared as an angel of light.
"The voice of Michael on the banks of the Susquehanna,
detecting the devil when he appeared as an angel of light!"
President Joseph Fielding Smith: "There
is no doubt about Satan having great power and that he can appear as an
angel of light. In this form he appeared on the banks of the Susquehanna
River to oppose the restoration of keys, and was detected by Michael, and
his plans were thwarted." (Answers To Gospel Questions, 1:177)
WHY WAS MICHAEL OR ADAM PRESENT ON THIS OCCASION?
D&C 78:16 indicates that Adam holds "the keys of salvation"
under the direction of Jesus Christ.
Joseph Smith: "The Priesthood is an everlasting
principle, and existed with God from eternity, and will to eternity, without
beginning of days or end of years. The keys have to be brought from heaven
whenever the Gospel is sent. When they are revealed from heaven, it is
by Adam's authority." (HC, 3:386)
WHAT ADDITIONAL INSTRUCTIONS AND INFORMATION WERE GIVEN BY JOHN THE BAPTIST
AT THIS TIME?
The Aaronic Priesthood was limited in authority. It did not have
the power of laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost. This
power would be bestowed at a latter time (JS-History 1:70).
He commanded them to baptize each other (JS-History 1:70).
John said he was working under the direction of Peter, James, and John,
who held the keys of the Melchizedek Priesthood. The time would come that
priesthood would be conferred upon Joseph and Oliver and they would become
the first and second elders in the Church (JS-History
WHAT AUTHORITY AND BLESSINGS WERE RESTORED WITH THE AARONIC PRIESTHOOD?
The keys of the ministering of angels (D&C 13:1,
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO HAVE THE KEYS OF THE MINISTERING OF ANGELS?
President Gordon B. Hinckley: "That means,
as I interpret it, that if you live worthy of the priesthood, you have
the right to receive and enjoy the very power of heavenly beings to guide
you, to protect you, to bless you." (Ensign, Nov 1982, p45)
President Wilford Woodruff tells of his call to go on a mission after walking
west with Zion's Camp. He was ordained a priest at this time and
called by Bishop Partridge to minister in the south. He was instructed to
go to Arkansas which required a trip through Jackson County. Wrote
President Woodruff, "However, we started
and went through Jackson County. We came near losing our lives, and were
saved almost by a miracle. We traveled through Arkansas and other parts.
"But I do not want to dwell
on these things. I merely wish to say that I went out as a priest, and
my companion as an elder, and we traveled thousands of miles, and had many
things manifested to us. I desire to impress upon you the fact that it
does not make any difference whether a man is a priest or an apostle, if
he magnifies his calling. A priest holds the key of the ministering of
angels. Never in my life, as an apostle, as a seventy, or as an elder,
have I ever had more of the protection of the Lord than while holding the
office as a priest. The Lord revealed to me by visions, by revelations,
and by the Holy Spirit, many things that lay before me." (Discourses
of Wilford Woodruff, p300)
Oscar W. McConkie: "The administration
of angels need not be as dramatic as were those of the restoring agents
from on high. Angels may minister and the recipient need not know the source
of his strength or joy. For example, one person may be helped while speaking
from the pulpit, while another may receive guidance at a critical junction
in his life. In some instances a third party has been aware of the presence
of angels while the party actually concerned was apparently unaware of
their presence." (Aaronic Priesthood, p101)
Elder Dallin H. Oaks stated that the ministering of angels can occur through
personal appearances and "can also be unseen. Angelic messages can be delivered by a voice or merely by thoughts or feelings
communicated to the mind. … Most angelic communications are felt or heard
rather than seen." (Ensign, Nov 1998, p39).
All members of the Church can enjoy this great blessing through the ministrations
of the Aaronic Priesthood.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks: "Through 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 Nephi 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." (Ensign, Nov 1998, p39)
The keys of repentance and baptism (D&C 13;
"And the lesser priesthood continued, which 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).
WHAT DOES THE PHRASE "PREPARATORY GOSPEL" MEAN?
"...repentance and baptism help us prepare to
receive the greater blessings that are administered through the Melchizedek
Priesthood, such as the gift of the Holy Ghost and temple ordinances."
The mission of John the Baptist was to administer the "preparatory gospel".
As John stated to the people of his time, "I indeed
baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is
mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize
you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire" (Matthew 1:11).
HOW DO AARONIC PRIESTHOOD HOLDERS IN OUR TIME ADMINISTER THE PREPARATORY
Home teaching: Under the direction of the senior companion, he may
present lessons that encourage families to improve their lives.
Missionary work: Priests may assist the full time missionaries or
stake missionaries. All Aaronic Priesthood holders have this opportunity
in their daily lives by the example they set, by sharing their testimony,
and by member missionary work.
Through testimony bearing.
Those that hold the Aaronic Priesthood often do not know the influence
they are blessed with in holding this special and unique authority. Years ago I was a member of the Teacher's quorum presidency in our ward. One Sunday afternoon the presidency went to visit one of the boys who had
not attended church in many months. We had a friendly chat, encouraged
him to come out to Church, and left. A few years later this boy returned
to church one Sunday. After several months of preparation he was
called on a mission and served faithfully. In talking with him,
he described this visit from the Teacher's quorum presidency as being important in
influencing his return to activity. It mattered to him that
we took time to go see him.
Priests may baptize or witness baptisms under the direction of the bishop.
May officiate in the ordinance of the sacrament.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland taught of the sacred nature of this ordinance:
ask you young men of the Aaronic Priesthood to prepare and bless and pass
these emblems of the Savior's sacrifice worthily and reverently. What a
stunning privilege and sacred trust given at such a remarkably young age!
I can think of no higher compliment heaven could pay you. We do love you.
Live your best and look your best when you participate in the sacrament
of the Lord's Supper." (Ensign, Nov 1995, p68)
HOW CAN BOYS AND YOUNG MEN PREPARE TO RECEIVE THE AARONIC PRIESTHOOD?
- HOW CAN PARENTS, GRANDPARENTS, AND OTHERS HELP BOYS AND YOUNG MEN
PREPARE TO RECEIVE THE PRIESTHOOD?
- HOW CAN OTHERS HELP INSTILL WITHIN BOYS AND YOUNG MEN A DEEP APPRECIATION
FOR THE PRIESTHOOD?
As young boys grow up in the Church, it is easy to fall into a pattern
of graduating from one class to the next and not emphasizing the importance
of the priesthood they are about to receive. We must do all that we can to
emphasize its sacred value and importance. We cannot take lightly that which
required an angel from God to restore.
See Gospel Topics:
Priesthood at LDS.org for additional information.
Restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood
WHEN DID THE RESTORATION OF THE MELCHIZEDEK PRIESTHOOD OCCUR?
At the time when the Aaronic Priesthood was restored, John said that the
greater power would be restored at a later time. The Aaronic Priesthood
was restored on May 15, 1829.
In Section 27, revealed to Joseph Smith in August 1830, the Lord makes
the following statement to Joseph: "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." (D&C 27:12)
In 1878, Orson Pratt and Joseph F. Smith visited David Whitmer in Missouri. The first question they asked of David was the date the "Apostleship" was
bestowed upon Joseph. David responded, "I do not know, Joseph never
told me." (Studies in Scripture, 1:92)
Joseph Smith, in the History of the Church, talks about ordination to the
office of an elder prior to the reception of Section 18 in June 1829. Therefore,
the Melchizedek Priesthood was most likely bestowed sometime between May 15 and the
latter part of June 1829.
WHAT AUTHORITY AND BLESSINGS WERE RESTORED WITH THE MELCHIZEDEK PRIESTHOOD?
Authority to administer the gospel of Jesus Christ (D&C 84:19).
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
Authority to govern the Church.
Preach the gospel.
Administer the ordinances of salvation.
The keys of all spiritual blessings in the Church (D&C 107:18).
WHAT ARE SOME OF THESE SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS?
"To have the privilege of receiving the mysteries
of the kingdom of heaven" (D&C 107:19).
WHAT ARE THE MYSTERIES OF THE KINGDOM?
When we use the word "mysteries" in a gospel context, we often think of
the perplexing questions that we have regarding the gospel. To "have
the privilege of receiving the mysteries of the kingdom" does not mean
that we receive answers to gospel trivia. The Lord teaches, "But unto him that keepeth
my commandments I will give the mysteries of my kingdom, and the same shall be
in him a well of living water, springing up unto everlasting life" (D&C
This verse seems to indicate that the mysteries of the kingdom are those things
which are necessary for us to obtain eternal life.
Joseph Smith said that the "Melchizedek Priesthood
. . . is the channel through which all knowledge, doctrine, the plan of
salvation and every important matter is revealed from heaven."
If we are curious about other gospel mysteries, I am sure the answers
will come to us in due time if we are faithful in following the will of
the Lord, but they cannot be our focus.
The power of godliness is manifest through the ordinances of the priesthood
HOW IS THE POWER OF GODLINESS MANIFESTED THROUGH THE ORDINANCES OF THE
This leads to an even more basic question: What is priesthood? "The
priesthood is the eternal power and authority of God. It is the power by
which He created and governs the heavens and the earth. It is also the
power by which He redeems and exalts His children. He gives a portion of
His priesthood power and authority to worthy male members of the Church
so they can preach the gospel, administer the ordinances of salvation,
and govern His kingdom on earth" (Lesson Manual). Whenever
a man operates under the authority of the priesthood, he is not using his
own power and authority, but that which has been given to him by God, and
thus the power of "godliness" is manifest when he acts in that capacity.
When a father baptizes a child,
the power of godliness is manifest, for the door to redemption and salvation
has been opened. When a stake president sets apart a missionary,
the power of godliness has been manifested. As an individual, the
stake president does not hold any unique power, but as a priesthood holder,
he speaks in behalf of the Lord and makes promises that will guide the new missionary
over his two years of service. When the elders lay their hands upon
the sick, the same power is manifested that Christ himself used
during his mortal ministry.
HOW HAS THE POWER OF GODLINESS BEEN MANIFESTED IN YOUR LIFE EXPERIENCES?
The opportunity to see, commune with, and enjoy the presence of God the
Father and His Son, Jesus Christ (D&C 84:22;
What a wonderful promise!
Joseph Smith: "After a person has faith
in Christ, repents of his sins, and is baptized for the remission of his
sins and receives the Holy Ghost, (by the laying on of hands), which is
the first Comforter, then let him continue to humble himself before God,
hungering and thirsting after righteousness, and living by every word of
God, and the Lord will soon say unto him, Son, thou shalt be exalted.
"When the Lord has thoroughly
proved him, and finds that the man is determined to serve Him at all hazards,
then the man will find his calling and his election made sure, then it
will be his privilege to receive the other Comforter, which the Lord hath
promised the Saints, as is recorded in the testimony of St. John, in the
14th chapter, from the 12th to the 27th verses." (TPJS, p150)
The right of presidency.
"The Melchizedek Priesthood holds the right of
presidency, and has power and authority over all the offices in the church
in all ages of the world, to administer in spiritual things. The
Presidency of the High Priesthood, after the order of Melchizedek, have
a right to officiate in all the offices in the church."
"The keys of the kingdom of God on earth are held
by the apostles. The president of the church, who is the senior apostle,
holds all the keys presently on earth and presides over all the organizational
and ordinance work of the Church (D&C 107:8-9, 91-92). He delegates
authority by giving the keys of specific offices to others (D&C 124:123).
Only presiding priesthood officers (including General Authorities, stake
presidents, mission presidents, temple presidents, bishops, branch presidents,
and quorum presidents) hold keys pertaining to their respective offices.
Latter-day Saints distinguish between holding the priesthood and holding
keys to direct the work of the priesthood: one does not receive additional
priesthood when one is given keys (Joseph F. Smith, IE 4 [Jan. 1901]:230)."
(Encyclopedia of Mormonism, p780)
The keys of the gathering of Israel, the gospel of the dispensation
of Abraham, and the sealing power (D&C 110:11-16).
These important keys were restored to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery a
few days after the dedication of the Kirtland Temple in 1836. These
keys will be discussed in Lesson 18.
Although only worthy male members of the Church may hold the priesthood,
everyone may partake of its blessings.
HOW ARE ALL MEMBERS BLESSED BY THE PRIESTHOOD?
HOW CAN THOSE WHO DO NOT HAVE FAITHFUL PRIESTHOOD HOLDERS IN THEIR HOMES
RECEIVE THE BLESSINGS OF THE PRIESTHOOD?
HOW CAN WE SHOW OUR APPRECIATION FOR THE BLESSINGS OF THE PRIESTHOOD?
See Gospel Topics:
Priesthood at LDS.org for additional information.
Photographs from my trip to Oakland (Harmony), Pennsylvania in 2010
Aaronic Priesthood Restoration Monument
Susquehanna River near Joseph and Emma's home
Susquehanna River near Joseph and Emma's home
Countryside near Harmony, Pennsylvania, and Colesville, New York
Gospel Doctrine Notebook
Record your thoughts on the restoration of the priesthood. How
does the priesthood make a difference in your life?
Resources Used In This Lesson
Aaronic Priesthood by Oscar W. McConkie.
Answers To Gospel Questions, Volume 1, by Joseph Fielding Smith.
Discourses of Wilford Woodruff.
Encyclopedia of Mormonism edited by Daniel H. Ludlow.
History of the Church (HC).
Studies In Scripture, Volume 1, edited by Robert L. Millet
and Kent P. Jackson.
Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith (TPJS).
Gospel Doctrine Class
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Changes last made on:
06 February 2017