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Relief Society Lesson Prep: #11 Honoring the Priesthood Keys Restored through Joseph Smith

The keys of the priesthood are the rights to govern the affairs of the Church. Only one person actively wields or uses those keys or rights at any one time, and that is the senior apostle of the Church, the prophet. The senior apostle delegates by assignment to others the rights to govern the affairs of parts of the Lord’s kingdom. Those who have only partial keys are restricted in their governing ability by the amount of keys or authority they are given. For example, a Stake President can only make decisions of leadership and have inspiration for those in his geographical boundaries. A Bishop can only preside and direct those within his geographical boundaries. And a quorum leader with keys can only preside over those members of his quorum. It is all very orderly and tightly structured. Anyone operating outside of their proscribed boundaries is out of line and does so without any authority. The opening section of the lesson discusses President Smith’s admonition to honor and give reverence to those with keys, the rights to govern or lead in their part of the Church. Giving respect is a matter of the office that person holds, not how much they might personally deserve your respect. It is possible to respect the office, and not the person in the office. So when our quorum leader or the Bishop, etc., gives us direction or an assignment, we need to do it because they are the one who holds the rights of governance for their scope of responsibility. We have raised our hand in support of that calling and covenanted with the Lord that we would follow their direction, no matter what.
When men are commissioned by the one who holds these keys, then their acts are valid. That which they do is sealed and ratified in the Church both on earth and in the heavens.
In Conference Report, Apr. 1967, 99.
The message of the second section of this lesson is that no ordinance performed in the name of God or for the benefit of God will be recognized by Him unless the person performing the ordinance is one of His authorized servants. That is the reason that each of the prophets from previous dispensations were required to come and pass their rights of authority to Joseph Smith so he was duly authorized to perform those ordinances. In order for the prophesied restoration of all things to take place, all the keys from all the prophets of every dispensation had to be passed on or restored to the modern church. The restoration of the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthood was not enough. We still needed the keys to the gathering of Israel, the rights to the everlasting covenant of marriage, and so forth. The prophets who held those keys came to Joseph Smith to pass their keys on to him as the head of this dispensation. Section three of the lesson emphasizes that the prophet is the only one on earth to actively use all the priesthood keys at one time. Even though all the apostles have the keys, they are only able to exercise them as a body of twelve, and that is generally done only to pass along that right use all the keys to the next prophet. They, like the rest of us, receive their assignments from the prophet. Section four talks about the honor we need to understand and give to the prophet who holds all the authority from God to manage the affairs of the Lord’s kingdom on earth. We sometimes do not realize that if, at any time, the prophet says that no one is allowed to perform this ordinance or that ordinance, then that is the end to the matter. That ordinance is no longer allowed to be done for any reason. He has complete control over what is done and who does it in the Church. By the same right, if the prophet changes how something is to be done, then that is the new “law” of the Church, and that is how things will be done from now on. No one but the Lord himself can overrule the prophet. Section five reminds us that the brethren of the Twelve, the First Presidency, and the prophet will never lead us astray. The Lord will not allow them to do so. We need to look to them for all our guidance and direction. When the world says one thing and the Brethren say something different, we need to follow the Brethren. The Lord will bless us for our obedience to their counsel.

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