Like many momentous events, the restoration of the priesthood came about through studying and pondering the word of the Lord.
The Prophet Joseph Smith and his scribe, Oliver Cowdery, in May 1829, had been absorbed with translating the Nephite record given to us today as the Book of Mormon. Questions had arisen in their minds regarding passages they found pertaining to baptism for the remission of sins.
The restoration of the holy priesthood had been foreshadowed six years earlier when Moroni appeared as an angel to Joseph Smith Jr. on Sept. 22, 1823. Part of the instruction given to the young Prophet on that occasion was that when the record was interpreted "the Lord will give the holy priesthood to some, and they shall begin to proclaim this gospel and baptize by water, and after that, they shall have power to give the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands." (Messenger and Advocate, October 1835, p. 199.)
Now, on that May 15, 1829, Moroni's words must have been on the mind of Joseph as he and Oliver encountered the reference to baptism in the newly revealed scriptural record. Their pondering became the catalyst for the spiritual experience that followed as the two retired to the woods to take their inquiry to the Lord.
What transpired, of course, was the beginning of a chain of events that has blessed mankind for the past 174 years. John the Baptist appeared and bestowed upon the two men the priesthood of Aaron, the preparatory priesthood, with authority to baptize for the remission of sins. Following John's direction, Joseph and Oliver baptized each other in the nearby Susquehanna River in Harmony, Pa., and then conferred upon each other the priesthood John had bestowed.
Though the precise date of this event is not known, the two would, sometime later, receive a divine visitation, this time from the ancient apostles Peter, James and John, who gave them the Melchizedek Priesthood, the greater priesthood involving authority for the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Thus, men of God, who had borne the priesthood anciently returned to earth in the latter days as divine messengers and bestowed upon mortal men priesthood keys, authority and power, the instrument by which men and women are blessed in mortality and receive the ordinances of eternal salvation.
"Which priesthood," the Lord revealed in 1832, "continueth in the church of God in all generations, and is without beginning of days or end of years. . . . And this . . . priesthood administereth the gospel and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God. Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest. . . . For without this no man can see the face of God, even the Father, and live." (Doctrine and Covenants 84:17, 19-20, 22.)
With the observance this month of the restoration of the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods, how fitting it is that the anniversary of another great event pertaining to priesthood should fall about the same time. It was on June 1, 1978, that President Spencer W. Kimball received the revelation extending the holy priesthood to all worthy male members of the Church without regard for race or color. This year is thus a landmark 25th anniversary of that event.
"My memory is clear concerning the events of that day," declared President Gordon B. Hinckley at a Churchwide fireside address on May 15, 1988, 10 years after the 1978 revelation. "There was a hallowed and sanctified atmosphere in the room [of the Salt Lake Temple]. For me, it was as if a conduit opened between the throne and the kneeling, pleading prophet of God who was joined by his Brethren. The Spirit of God was there. And by the power of the Holy Ghost there came to that prophet an assurance that the thing for which he prayed was right."
Like Joseph's and Oliver's petitions, President Kimball's pleadings came after pondering the word of the Lord, "the promises . . . that at some time, in God's eternal plan, all of our brethren who are worthy may receive the priesthood." (Doctrine and Covenants, Official Declaration — 2.)
As we ponder the word of the Lord pertaining to priesthood, may we be prompted and motivated to be worthy to make its blessings efficacious in our lives.