We’ve already discussed about the restoration of the priesthood authority in 1829. Now we’re going to break it down and discuss the Aaronic Priesthood:
“As the Prophet Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon, he found mention of baptism for the baptism. As they prayed, “a messenger from heaven descended in a cloud of light.” This messenger was John the Baptist, the prophet who had baptized Jesus Christ centuries earlier. John the Baptist, now a resurrected being, laid his hands on Joseph and on Oliver and conferred upon each of them the Aaronic Priesthood, which had been taken from the earth during the Great Apostasy. With this authority, Joseph and Oliver were able to baptize one another. (See Joseph Smith—History 1:68–72.)
About this time, Joseph Smith wrote the prayer offered by John the Baptist as the priesthood was bestowed upon him: “Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah I confer the Priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; and this shall never be taken again from the earth, until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness.” (D&C 13.)
President Gordon B. Hinckley, in an address to young men of the church, for the Aaronic Priesthood is conferred upon worthy young men ages 12 and up, told them the following:
Have you ever realized that in the holding and exercise of this priesthood you are a fellow servant with John the Baptist, the very man who, while he was alive, baptized Jesus, the Savior of the world and the Son of God, in the waters of the River Jordan? It is interesting to me that John spoke to Joseph and Oliver, when they were both young men and when they were not highly regarded by people of the world, as his fellow servants. He did not speak down to them as a king might speak to one of his subjects. He did not speak down to them as a judge might speak to an individual on trial before him. He did not speak down to them as a university president or a high school principal might speak to his students. Rather, he who was a resurrected being addressed these young men as his fellow servants. To me there is something wonderful in this. It speaks of the true spirit of the great and magnificent brotherhood of which we are all a part, the priesthood of God. We are all servants together, regardless of our position in the Church or in the world, regardless of wealth or lack of it, regardless of the color of our skin—we are all servants together, brothers one to another and sons of God as a part of this great body of sacred priesthood. (Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Priesthood of Aaron” Ensign, Nov 1982, 44)
There are three offices in the Aaronic Priesthood. Deacon, Teacher and Priest.
Deacon ? When a young man reaches the age of 12, if he is worthy, he receives the Aaronic Priesthood and is ordained to the office of a Deacon. The responsibilities of a Deacon, some of which, are the passing of the sacrament and the collecting of fast offerings.
Teacher ? When a young man reaches the age of 14 he is then eligible for, if worthy, to be ordained to the office of a Teacher. He has all the responsibilities of a Deacon and is also to to “warn, expound, exhort, and teach, and invite all to come unto Christ.” (D&C 20:59)
Priest ? When a young man reaches the age of 16, again, dependent upon his worthiness, he will be advanced to the office of Priest. Once this office is bestowed upon him he is then responsible for the blessing of the sacrament, to preach, teach, expound, exhort, and baptize, and administer the sacrament, visit the house of each member, encouraging them to pray vocally and privately and attend to all family duties. He is able ordain other priests, teachers, and deacons.
Elder Dallin H. Oakes said: “What does it mean that the Aaronic Priesthood holds “the key of the ministering of angels” and of the “gospel of repentance and of baptism, and the remission of sins”? The meaning is found in the ordinance of baptism and in the sacrament. Baptism is for the remission of sins, and the sacrament is a renewal of the covenants and blessings of baptism. Both should be preceded by repentance. When we keep the covenants made in these ordinances, we are promised that we will always have His Spirit to be with us. The ministering of angels is one of the manifestations of that Spirit. (Dallin H. Oaks, “Your Sacred Duty,” New Era, May 1999, 4)
Named after Aaron, the brother of Moses, the Aaronic Priesthood, which is sometimes referred to as the Levitical Priesthood, is an appendage to or part of the Melchizedek Priesthood and that this Melchizedek Priesthood is the power through which every important matter is revealed from heaven.
Elder Robert B. Harbertson told a story that illustrates the point and power of the Aaronic priesthood in its purest form:
A priests quorum decided one winter to gather food for the needy as a service project. This event soon developed into a competitive activity with the Laurels to see who could gather the most food.
Jim, one of the members of the quorum, became very excited about participating in this activity. He planned to use a cart he had built for a parade and was determined that he was going to collect more food than anyone else.
The night came, and the priests and Laurels met at the chapel. They went out at the same time and returned at the specified time later in the evening. Much to everyone’s surprise, Jim’s cart was empty. He was rather sober and didn’t seem to want to talk to anyone. Some of the boys made fun of him and asked, “Where’s your food, Jim? We thought you were going to beat us all.”
Seeing the situation Jim was in and knowing that he had an interest in automobiles, the adviser grabbed him and said, “Come outside, Jim, I want you to look at my car. It’s giving me some trouble.”
When they got outside, the adviser said, “What’s wrong, Jim?” Jim began to cry and said, “I don’t know if I want to talk about it.”
“Are you upset?”
“No, not really. But when I went out to collect the food, I really got a lot. My cart was full. As I was returning to the chapel, I stopped at the home of a nonmember woman who is divorced and lives within our ward boundaries. I knocked on the door and explained what we were doing, and she invited me in. She began to look for something to give me. She opened the refrigerator, and I could see there was hardly anything in it. The cupboards were bare. Finally, she found a small can of peaches.
“I could hardly believe it. There were all these little kids running around that needed to be fed, and she handed me this can of peaches. I took it and put it in my cart and went on up the street. I got about halfway up the block when I just felt warm all over and knew I needed to go back to that house. I gave her all the food.”
The adviser said, “Jim, don’t you ever forget the way you feel tonight, because that’s what it is all about.”
Because of the priesthood Jim held, he had received the ministering of angels and through the Holy Ghost had been guided to do something that was far more important than winning the contest. (Robert B. Harbertson, “The Aaronic Priesthood: What’s So Great about It,” New Era, May 1990, 49)
The Aaronic priesthood is one of the things restored upon the conclusion of the Great Apostasy. It is a boon to mankind in the hands of a righteous young man.