This is the season of the year when we commemorate the restoration of priesthood power to the earth for this last and final dispensation.
On May 15, 1829, John the Baptist as a resurrected being appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery and restored the Aaronic or lesser priesthood. Later, likely in June, Peter, James, and John, apostles ordained by Jesus Christ, returned to the earth and conferred upon Joseph and Oliver the keys and powers of the Holy Priesthood after the Order of the Son of God, referred to as the Melchizedek Priesthood.God's power was again on the earth and the work of the Dispensation of the Fulness of Times was now ready to go forth with authority to fill the whole earth.
The Prophet Joseph affirmed the need for the restoration of the priesthood when he said: "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." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 157.)
Of the priesthood restoration, Oliver Cowdery wrote: ". . . The Lord, who is rich in mercy, and ever willing to answer the consistent prayer of the humble, after we had called upon Him in a fervent manner, aside from the abodes of men, condescended to manifest to us His will. On a sudden, as from the 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!
". . . 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 hand the Holy Priesthood. . . ." (Joseph Smith-History, p. 59.)
It is this restored priesthood authority that makes it possible for this Church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to fulfill its divine mission to preach the gospel to those who await its message, to perfect the lives of its members and prepare them for eternal life with God, and to redeem those who have lived previously and have not had their sealing ordinances performed in temples on earth.
The priesthood is both a guard and a guide for the Saints.
In his early days as a missionary in Europe, Elder Karl G. Maeser had occasion to lead a group of missionaries across the Alps. As they reached the summit of the trail they had followed, Elder Maeser invited the missionaries to turn and look back at the trail behind them. What they saw was a series of sticks placed alongside the trail.
Elder Maeser then said: "Brethren, there stands the priesthood. They are just common sticks like the rest of us - some of them are even crooked, but the position they hold makes them what they are to us. If we step aside from the path they mark, we are lost." (Alma P. Burton, Karl G. Maeser, Mormon Educator, p. 33, master's degree thesis, Brigham Young University, 1950.)
Most assuredly it is our priesthood leaders who mark the way and define the limits and bounds of righteousness. Step away from the proper path they mark and the way is lost! As Elder Maeser so aptly said, the priesthood is conferred upon ordinary men. Ordination in and of itself does not outwardly change individuals, but it gives them extraordinary power by which they can then be servants to their fellow men and help carry on the vital work of the kingdom of God so that the kingdom of heaven can come.
It is a great privilege to be a priesthood bearer, as President Spencer W. Kimball said: "My beloved brethren, it is a great privilege and blessing to hold the priesthood of God. Priesthood is divine authority bestowed upon worthy men that they might officiate in the ordinances of the gospel. The keys that have been given to those who hold the priesthood have come from heaven, for the priesthood is an everlasting principle that has existed with God from the beginning, and it will exist throughout all eternity." (Priesthood, Deseret Book, 1981, p. 1.)
May all who hold the priesthood sense the fulness of its power and magnify it before God, whose power it is.