During his mortal ministry, Christ ordained twelve apostles, and , the Lord bestowed the keys of the kingdom: “And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matt 16: 19).
This is precisely why the Apostle Paul wrote the following words about priesthood authority: “no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron” (Hebrews 5:4). Of course, Aaron’s call to receive priesthood power came through his brother Moses–the prophet who held the “keys of the kingdom” during that dispensation of time; Aaron received his ordination of authority under the hands of the Lord’s prophet.
Christ directs the affairs of His Church and Kingdom in orderly fashion, and He commands His faithful saints to humbly yield to His way of oneness and unity. In a latter-day revelation, Christ gave this admonition about His way of order:
“I am Christ, and in mine own name, by the virtue of the blood which I have spilt, have I pleaded before the Father, . . . I say unto you, be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine” (D&C 38: 4, 27).
To get a clear image of Christ’s expectation of unity and order, pertaining to priesthood power, consider how the Lord Jehovah handled the rebellion of Korah–an insurrection against the prophet Moses, the prophet who held the “keys of the kingdom.”
In the days of Moses, only the descendants of Levi were ordained with priesthood power. The sons of Levi were “separated” (Numbers 16: 9) from all the other tribes of Israel to be the sole possessors of priesthood authority. Remember, the Levites did not receive an inheritance of land like the other tribes of Israel (Joshua 14: 4).
Discontent due to the hardships of wilderness wandering, a rebellion arose against Moses; a Levite named Korah challenged Moses’ authority and leadership saying “thou hast brought us up out of a land that floweth with milk and honey, to kill us in the wilderness” (Numbers 16: 13).
Completely forgetting the marvelous miracles brought forth by Moses–the parting of the Red Sea and deliverance from Pharaoh’s bondage–Korah was able to stir up his boycott based upon the unpopularity of wilderness wandering. Korah gained the support of “two hundred and fifty princes of the assembly, famous in the congregation, men of renown” (Numbers 16: 2).
In the face of this insurrection, Jehovah set a stunning precedent as to His expectations of order and unity. He made it clear that His kingdom is not directed by crowd consensus or political popularity. The Lord directed Moses to arrange a defining moment similar to that of Elijah and the pagan priests of Baal, where loyalties would be decided: who would follow the Lord’s prophet or who would follow Korah’s rebellious uprising? In this defining moment “the Lord will shew who are his, and who is holy; . . . even him whom he hath chosen will he cause to come near” (Numbers 16: 5).
The next day “Korah and all his company” took censors (small metal containers for holding hot coals) “and put fire therein, and put incense in them before the Lord . . . that the man whom the Lord doth choose, he shall be holy” (Numbers 16: 7). The ritual of carrying censors containing fire and incense was symbolic of prayerful supplication before God (Revelation 8: 3-4).
As directed by Moses, Korah and his followers appeared before the tabernacle of the congregation, and the prophet said to Korah:
“Hereby ye shall know that the Lord hath sent me to do all these works; for I have not done them of mine own mind” (Number 16: 28).
This vital clarification by Moses confirmed that the Lord is in charge of the affairs of His Kingdom; and in fact, it was the Lord’s judgment and decree that the children of Israel should endure the hardships of wandering in the wilderness (Numbers 32: 13)–hardships that Korah and his company were blaming on Moses. Because Korah thought he could lead the children of Israel better than Moses, he took “honour unto himself” seeking to replace the prophet.
What followed was a dramatic display of the Lord’s power in response to Korah’s rebellion; in no uncertain terms the Lord showed His disapproval that Korah and his crew had not obeyed and honored the authority of Moses–the prophet who held the “keys of the kingdom” by the decree of Jehovah.
Moses declared to Korah and his rebellious band of princes that if they should live to an old age and die of natural causes, then “the Lord hath not sent me.” But if “the earth open her mouth, and swallow them up, . . . and they go down quick into the pit; then ye shall understand that these men have provoked the LORD.”
And it came to pass, as he had made an end of speaking all these words, that the ground clave asunder that was under them: And the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the men that appertained unto Korah, . . . went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed upon them: and they perished from among the congregation. And all Israel that were round about them fled at the cry of them: for they said, Lest the earth swallow us up also. And there came out a fire from the LORD, and consumed the two hundred and fifty men that offered incense” (Numbers 16: 30-35).
Jehovah’s stunning response to Korah’s insurrection demonstrates in dramatic fashion that the God of Israel is in charge, and will call and ordain prophets to direct the affairs of His Kingdom according to His will and wisdom.
“Thus saith the Lord your God, even Jesus Christ, the Great I Am, . . . be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine” (D&C 38: 1, 27).