Priesthood Keys

“Priesthood Keys,” Topics and Questions (2023)

Christ ordaining the apostles

Gospel Study Guide

Priesthood Keys

The authority to direct God’s work

Every day, you probably have the experience of opening doors by using a key. Holding keys can be symbolic of a person having authority and access. Priesthood keys held by the Lord’s servants authorize them to direct how priesthood authority and power are used in the work of salvation and exaltation.

Jesus Christ holds all the keys of the priesthood pertaining to His Church. He has conferred upon each of His Apostles all the keys that pertain to the kingdom of God on earth. The President of the Church is the only person authorized to exercise all those priesthood keys.

Temple presidents, mission presidents, stake presidents, bishops, and quorum presidents also hold priesthood keys that allow them to preside over and direct the work they have been commissioned to do. Because of the keys of the priesthood, we can have access to the ordinances, covenants, blessings, and powers we need in order to return to live with our Heavenly Father and our Savior and become like Them.

What Are Priesthood Keys?

The keys of the priesthood are the rights of presidency, or the power God gives to man to govern and direct the kingdom of God on the earth (see Matthew 16:15–19). Priesthood keys are necessary to direct the preaching of the gospel and the administration of the ordinances of salvation and exaltation.

Topic overview: Priesthood

Related gospel study guides: Aaronic Priesthood, Melchizedek Priesthood, Restoration of the Priesthood

Section 1

Heavenly Messengers Restored Priesthood Keys in Our Day

statue of restoration

During His mortal ministry, Jesus Christ gave the “keys of the kingdom of heaven” to Peter, James, and John (see Matthew 16:18–19; Doctrine and Covenants 7:5–7). With the death of Jesus Christ and His Apostles, the priesthood and priesthood keys were lost from the earth for centuries.

In 1829, John the Baptist returned to earth and restored the Aaronic Priesthood and its keys to the Prophet Joseph Smith (see Doctrine and Covenants 13; Joseph Smith—History 1:67–72). Shortly afterward, Peter, James, and John restored the Melchizedek Priesthood and its keys (see Doctrine and Covenants 27:12–13).

Other heavenly messengers, including Moses, Elias, and Elijah, appeared to Joseph Smith in the Kirtland Temple and committed more authority to carry out the work of salvation and exaltation (see Doctrine and Covenants 110:11–16).

Things to think about

  • Compare Doctrine and Covenants 110:1–16 with Matthew 17:1–9. How was the experience of Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in the Kirtland Temple similar to the one had by Peter, James, and John on the Mount of Transfiguration?

  • Read Doctrine and Covenants 65. What are some ways God is preparing the world for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ through the priesthood keys He has given His servants? In what ways can you prepare yourself and others for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ?

Activity for learning with others

  • President Russell M. Nelson explained what authority Moses, Elias, and Elijah committed to the Prophet Joseph Smith in the Kirtland Temple. Read the following statement with your group members:

    • “Moses delivered the keys of the gathering of Israel … ;

    • “Elias, the keys of the Abrahamic covenant;

    • “And Elijah, the keys of the sealing authority.

    • “Joseph Smith conferred those restored priesthood keys upon all of the Apostles called in his day. In turn, these keys have been transferred through the generations to the present leaders of the Church. Today, the President of the Church actively holds every key held by ‘all those who have received a dispensation at any time from the beginning of the creation’ [Doctrine and Covenants 112:31].”

    Why is it necessary for the President of the Church to hold the same priesthood keys today that were given to Joseph Smith?

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Section 2

We Sustain Those Who Hold Priesthood Keys

family watching conference

The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that “the fundamental principles, government, and doctrine of the Church are vested in the keys of the kingdom.” This means that the priesthood keys held by the President of the Church of Jesus Christ authorize him to administer all the blessings, ordinances, covenants, and organizations of the Church (see Doctrine and Covenants 107:65–67).

Members of the Church frequently have the opportunity in conferences and sacrament meetings to sustain general and local Church leaders, including those who hold priesthood keys. Sustaining indicates our confidence in them and our willingness to support, help, and pray for them (see Doctrine and Covenants 26:2). We can also receive spiritual protection when we follow and sustain those who hold priesthood keys (see Doctrine and Covenants 43:1–7).

Things to think about

  • Read Doctrine and Covenants 90:2–6 to learn important truths about the keys held by members of the First Presidency. How do the keys of the kingdom relate to the revelations God gives the Church? What will happen if we treat lightly the revelations God gives us through those who hold the keys of the kingdom?

Activity for learning with others

  • With group members, discuss the truth that all who serve in the Church—men and women—are called under the direction of one who holds priesthood keys (see Doctrine and Covenants 42:11). President Dallin H. Oaks taught, “Whoever functions in an office or calling received from one who holds priesthood keys exercises priesthood authority in performing her or his assigned duties.” When have you felt God’s blessings helping you after you were set apart to serve in a Church calling?

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