Seminar for mission presidents: Sacred priesthood keys


On the final day of the 2012 Seminar for New Mission Presidents, Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve focused his message on "the keys of the holy priesthood."

The restoration of the Church required both the conferring of the priesthood and the restoration of priesthood keys, he said. Only by these restorations could the Church be authorized to perform all of the acts and ordinances of previous dispensations in the final dispensation.

"The keys of the priesthood are conferred in their entirety only on those men who are ordained Apostles and sustained as members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles," Elder Oaks explained. "However, only the president of the Church has the right to exercise all of these keys in their fullness."

Elder Dallin H. Oaks teaches mission presidents concerning priesthood keys.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks teaches mission presidents concerning priesthood keys. | Intellectual Reserve Inc.

Every act or ordinance performed under priesthood authority for the Church must be authorized and directed by one holding the keys for that act. Understanding the principles of priesthood authority and priesthood keys can help mission presidents with two key responsibilities: teaching missionaries and teaching members.

"First, you need to be a great role model for your young missionary force — about one third of whom [worldwide] come from a home where their father was not an active Melchizedek Priesthood holder," he said. "Second, you need to direct the teaching of priesthood principles in your member districts. Most of our North American missions do not have member districts, but worldwide about two-thirds of our missions have member districts. Therefore, most of you will be responsible to see that leaders and members are taught priesthood principles to help them develop toward stakehood."

The family and the Church, he explained, have a mutually reinforcing relationship. "The family is dependent upon the Church for doctrine, ordinances and priesthood keys, while the Church provides the teachings, authority and ordinances necessary to perpetuate family relationships in the eternities."

Elder Dallin H. Oaks.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks. | Intellectual Reserve Inc.

In fact, the family and the Church are so interrelated that service in one is service to the other.

"When children see their parents faithfully performing Church callings, it strengthens their family relationships," said Elder Oaks. "When families are strong, the Church is strong. The two run parallel."

There are many similarities and some differences in the way priesthood authority functions in the family and in the Church, he explained. All priesthood authority in the Church functions under the direction of the one who holds the appropriate keys. "In contrast, the one who presides in the family — whether father or single-parent mother — exercises priesthood authority in family matters without the need to get authorization from anyone holding priesthood keys." Such "family authority" includes directing the activities of the family, family meetings such as home evenings, family prayer, teaching the gospel and counseling and disciplining children. "It also includes ordained fathers giving priesthood blessings," he said.

Church organizations such as wards and quorums always have geographic boundaries. In contrast, family relationships and responsibilities are not dependent upon where different family members reside. Church callings are always temporary, he added, while family relationships are permanent.

Elder Oaks said a most important difference is that the government of the family is patriarchal, while the government of the Church is hierarchical. A ward Relief Society president, for example, is presided over by a priesthood leader. They are not partners "but fellow workers in an organization that is directed from above," he said.

"As to partnership in the family, the Family Proclamation gives this beautiful explanation: While a father and a mother have separate responsibilities, 'in these sacred responsibilities, [they] are obligated to help one another as equal partners.' "— Jason Swensen

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