Joseph Smith on Keys
He spoke of delivering the keys of the Priesthood to the Church, and said that the faithful members of the Relief Society should receive them with their husbands, that the Saints whose integrity has been tried and proved faithful, might know how to ask the Lord and receive an answer; for according to his prayers, God had appointed him elsewhere. (Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected and arranged by Joseph Fielding Smith, p. 226)
Wednesday, 4.—I spent the day in the upper part of the store, that is in my private office * * * in council with General James Adams, of Springfield, Patriarch Hyrum Smith, Bishops Newel K. Whitney and George Miller, and President Brigham Young and Elders Heber C. Kimball and Willard Richards, instructing them in the principles and order of the Priesthood, attending to washings, anointings, endowments and the communication of keys pertaining to the Aaronic Priesthood, and so on to the highest order of the Melchizedek Priesthood, setting forth the order pertaining to the Ancient of Days, and all those plans and principles by which any one is enabled to secure the fullness of those blessings which have been prepared for the Church of the Firstborn, and come up and abide in the presence of the Eloheim in the eternal worlds. In this council was instituted the ancient order of things for the first time in these last days. And the communications I made to this council were of things spiritual, and to be received only by the spiritual minded: and there was nothing made known to these men but what will be made known to all the Saints of the last days, so soon as they are prepared to receive, and a proper place is prepared to communicate them, even to the weakest of the Saints; therefore let the Saints be diligent in building the Temple, and all houses which they have been, or shall hereafter be, commanded of God to build; and wait their time with patience in all meekness, faith, perseverance unto the end, knowing assuredly that all these things referred to in this council are always governed by the principle of revelation. (May 4, 1842.) (Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected and arranged by Joseph Fielding Smith, p. 237)
What was the power of Melchizedek? ‘Twas not the Priesthood of Aaron which administers in outward ordinances, and the offering of sacrifices. Those holding the fulness of the Melchizedek Priesthood are kings and priests of the Most High God, holding the keys of power and blessings. (Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected and arranged by Joseph Fielding Smith, p. 322)
The declaration this morning is, that as soon as the Temple and baptismal font are prepared, we calculate to give the Elders of Israel their washings and anointings, and attend to those last and more impressive ordinances, without which we cannot obtain celestial thrones. But there must be a holy place prepared for that purpose. There was a proclamation made during the time that the foundation of the Temple was laid to that effect, and there are provisions made until the work is completed, so that men may receive their endowments and be made kings and priests unto the Most High God, having nothing to do with temporal things, but their whole time will be taken up with things pertaining to the house of God. These must, however, be a place built expressly for that purpose, and for men to be baptized for their dead. It must be built in this central place; for every man who wishes to save his father, mother, brothers, sisters and friends, must go through all the ordinances for each one of them separately, the same as for himself, from baptism to ordination, washing and anointings, and receive all the keys and powers of the Priesthood, the same as for himself. (Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected and arranged by Joseph Fielding Smith, p. 362)
The morning after the visitations from the angel Moroni (21-22 September 1823), Joseph Smith went to the side of the hill Cumorah to unearth the plates he had seen in his vision. As he later told Oliver Cowdery, on the road to Cumorah he became fixed and determined to obtain the plates for wealth and prestige and not for the glory of God. Only after attempting unsuccessfully three times to remove the plates from the stone box in which they were enclosed did he become aware that Moroni was present. The angel indicated that he was permitted by God to be led by this evil spirit so that from that time forth he would always know the difference between a true spirit and an evil spirit. This was only a beginning of his instructions in the gift of discerning spirits (D&C 46:15-16, 23, 27). Subsequent revelations through Joseph Smith gave greater detail concerning keys to detecting the adversary. D&C 50:30-35 gave instructions that if after prayer a spirit would not manifest itself, the individuals involved would have power to rebuke the spirit. Joseph Smith had experience himself with this type of manifestation. On the banks of the Susquehanna River, Michael appeared to intervene and detect the devil when he appeared as an angel of light (D&C 128:20), indicating another dimension to this question of detection. Because the adversary apparently can take light and truth away from the disobedient (D&C 93:39), he can attempt to pass as an angel of glory (2 Corinthians 11:14; D&C 129:8; Moses 1:2, 9, 11-25). As indicated in this discourse, Joseph Smith therefore revealed additional keys of detection. Far from saying that when the instructions of this discourse were followed, the adversary’s only recourse was to attempt to return the handshake, in a December 1840 discourse Joseph says, “The Devil… will either shrink back… or offer his hand.” He will not remain absolutely still if he is tested. On 28 April 1842, the Prophet revealed to the Relief Society, and on 1 May 1842 to the Nauvoo populace, that there was another dimension for determining whether manifestations and revelations were approved by God. There were “keys of the kingdom,” he said to a Sunday audience of the saints in the Grove, “certain signs and words by which false spirits and personages may be detected from true, which cannot be revealed to the Elders till the Temple is completed… There are signs… the Elders must know…to be endowed with the power, to finish their work and prevent imposition” (1 May 1842 discourse). Three days later Joseph Smith revealed these sacred keys to nine men—in accordance with his plans as announced to the Relief Society just six days before (28 April 1842). To these men he taught the keys of prayer and detection whereby all false documents, revelations, or manifestations could be tested (Times and Seasons 5 [15 September 1844]:649-50 and Letter of Orson Hyde, George A. Smith, and Ezra T. Benson to Brigham Young, dated 5 April 1849, Brigham Young Collection, Church Archives). They were so sacred that when Heber C. Kimball wrote to fellow apostle Parley P. Pratt just a few weeks later, he said that Joseph had taught them some precious things on the priesthood that would cause his soul to rejoice if he knew them, but that Joseph had given instructions that these keys not be written about. Heber concluded his description of the newly revealed endowment by saying that Parley would have to come to Nauvoo to receive the instruction for himself (Letter of Heber C. Kimball to Parley P. Pratt, 17 June 1842, Church Archives). Parley arrived in Nauvoo on 7 February 1843, and although the Prophet made him wait ten months before giving him his endowment (2 December 1843), after only two days he partially satisfied Parley’s curiosity by giving him the instructions contained in D&C 129—the same instructions as given in this discourse, 27 June 1839 (see also Joseph Smith Diary, 9 February 1843, Church Archives). George A. Smith, who received his endowment with Parley P. Pratt in December 1843, and who also was a witness to all the dimensions of Joseph’s teachings on this subject, later said, “There was no point upon which the Prophet Joseph dwelt more than the discerning of Spirits” (“Minutes of Meetings held in Provo City,” 28 November 1869, Church Archives). This may be true because the Prophet insisted that true religion was one of individual participation in revelation from God but that in their zeal many could be deceived. (Joseph Smith, The Words of Joseph Smith: The Contemporary Accounts of the Nauvoo Discourses of the Prophet Joseph Smith, compiled and edited by Andrew Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, p. 20-21)
He said as he had this opportunity, he was going to instruct the Society and point out the way for them to conduct, that they might act according to the will of God—that he did not know as he should have many opportunities of teaching them—that they were going to be left to themselves—they would not long have him to instruct them—that the church would not have his instruction long, and the world would not be troubled with him a great while, and would not have his teachings 11—He spoke of delivering the keys to this society and to the Church—that according to his prayers God had appointed him elsewhere. (Joseph Smith, The Words of Joseph Smith: The Contemporary Accounts of the Nauvoo Discourses of the Prophet Joseph Smith, compiled and edited by Andrew Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, p. 116)
He exhorted the sisters always to concentrate their faith and prayers for, and place confidence in those whom God has appointed to honor, whom God has plac’d at the head to lead—that we should arm them with our prayers—that the keys of the kingdom are about to be given to them, that they may be able to detect every thing false—as well as to the Elders. (Joseph Smith, The Words of Joseph Smith: The Contemporary Accounts of the Nauvoo Discourses of the Prophet Joseph Smith, compiled and edited by Andrew Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, p. 116)
“Keys,” apparently meaning the keys of the kingdom, used in the next paragraph (at note 13; see also 1 May 1842, note 4). Apparently because the record says that the “keys” would be given both to the Relief Society members and to the Church and the “keys of the Kingdom” referred to were to be given in the endowment, George A. Smith felt justified in amplifying this text as follows (italicized words are amplifications): “He spoke of delivering the keys of the Priesthood to the Church, and said that the faithful members of the Relief Society should receive them in connection with their husbands, that the Saints whose integrity has been tried and proved faithful, might know how to ask the Lord and receive an answer; for according to his prayers, God had appointed him elsewhere.” (History of the Church, 4:604, or Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 226). (Joseph Smith, The Words of Joseph Smith: The Contemporary Accounts of the Nauvoo Discourses of the Prophet Joseph Smith, compiled and edited by Andrew Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, p. 141)
The context of this statement clearly indicates that Joseph Smith intended first to give “the keys of the kingdom” to the leaders of the Church before giving them to the “Elders.” (His foreboding comments (at note 11 ) certainly imply that he was afraid they would be lost from the earth if he did not confer them on others before his death.) The “keys of the kingdom” that enable the possessor to “detect every thing false” are the keys given in the endowment ordinances (see his next public discourse, given 1 May 1842). Six days after this discourse to the Relief Society, he gave the endowment for the first time in this dispensation (History of the Church, 5:1-2, or Teachings, p. 137). Given that Joseph’s main reason for talking to the Relief Society that day was to instruct them that women “would come in possession of the privileges, blessings and gifts of the Priesthood…such as healing the sick [and] casting out devils” (see note 21, this discourse 21), and given that “casting out devils” would be done by the “keys of the kingdom,” Joseph Smith therefore intended even before he first gave these ordinances that women would receive the endowment. (Joseph Smith, The Words of Joseph Smith: The Contemporary Accounts of the Nauvoo Discourses of the Prophet Joseph Smith, compiled and edited by Andrew Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, p. 141-142)
I preached in the grove on the keys of the Kingdom… The keys are certain signs and words by which false spirits and personages may be detected from true, which cannot be revealed to the Elders till the Temple is completed. (Joseph Smith, The Words of Joseph Smith: The Contemporary Accounts of the Nauvoo Discourses of the Prophet Joseph Smith, compiled and edited by Andrew Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, p. 119)
I put the quotes by Joseph regarding keys at the front of this post, and am following his quotations with the article published in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism by Alan Parrish. I do this to illustrate that the word keys can be nuanced at times. Like many words and ideas expressed by the Prophet Joseph Smith, the idea of keys developed over time as he was taught from on high and grew in his understanding. The Lord expressed the idea of keys differently to him over time as Joseph learned more of the mysteries of the kingdom of God. D&C 90:1-5; 124:34 and 128:11 are a great starting point regarding the concept of keys as Joseph taught about them in the Nauvoo period. As I read his thoughts regarding keys in this time period, I see his thoughts more expansive, more inclusive to those who are ready to receive, indeed, his inclusion of the whole church, when it comes to keys as he taught about them in these later years.
Keys of the Priesthood
Encyclopedia of Mormonism
Author: Parrish, Alan K. See: http://eom.byu.edu/index.php/Keys_of_the_Priesthood Accessed 1.15.18
The keys of the priesthood refer to the right to exercise power in the name of Jesus Christ or to preside over a priesthood function, quorum, or organizational division of the Church. Keys are necessary to maintain order and to see that the functions of the Church are performed in the proper time, place, and manner. They are given by the laying on of hands in an ordination or setting apart by a person who presides and who holds the appropriate keys at a higher level. Many keys were restored to men on earth by heavenly messengers to the Prophet Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery.
The keys of the kingdom of God on earth are held by the apostles. The president of the church, who is the senior apostle, holds all the keys presently on earth and presides over all the organizational and ordinance work of the Church (D&C 107:8-9, 91-92). He delegates authority by giving the keys of specific offices to others (D&C 124:123). Only presiding priesthood officers (including General Authorities, stake presidents, mission presidents, temple presidents, bishops, branch presidents, and quorum presidents) hold keys pertaining to their respective offices. Latter-day Saints distinguish between holding the priesthood and holding keys to direct the work of the priesthood: one does not receive additional priesthood when one is given keys (Joseph F. Smith, IE 4 [Jan. 1901]:230).
The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that “the fundamental principles, government, and doctrine of the Church are vested in the keys of the kingdom” (TPJS, p. 21). “The keys have to be brought from heaven whenever the Gospel is sent”; they are revealed to man under the authority of Adam, for he was the first to be given them when he was given dominion over all things. They have come down through the dispensations of the gospel to prophets, including Noah, Abraham, Moses, Elijah; to Peter, James, and John; and to Joseph Smith and the designated prophets of the latter days (HC 3:385-87). Keys to perform or preside over various priesthood functions were bestowed upon Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery by John the Baptist (see Aaronic Priesthood: Restoration), by Peter, James, and John (see Melchizedek Priesthood: Restoration of Melchizedek Priesthood), and by Moses, Elias, and Elijah in the Kirtland Temple (see Doctrine and Covenants: Sections 109-110).
Many types of keys are mentioned in the scriptures of the Church (see MD, pp. 409-13). Jesus Christ holds all the keys. Joseph Smith received the keys pertaining to the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ (D&C 6:25-28;28:7;35:18), and through him the First Presidency holds the “keys of the kingdom,” including the sealing ordinances (D&C 81:1-2;90:1-6;110:16;128:20;132:19). Specific mention of certain keys and those who hold them include the following: The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles exercises the keys “to open the door by the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ” in all the world (D&C 107:35;112:16;124:128). Adam holds “the keys of salvation under the counsel and direction of the Holy One,” and “the keys of the universe” (D&C 78:16; TPJS, p. 157); Moses, “the keys of the gathering of Israel” (D&C 110:11); Elias, the keys to bring to pass “the restoration of all things” (D&C 27:6); and Elijah, “the keys of the power of turning the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to the fathers” (D&C 27:9). Holders of the Melchizedek Priesthood are said to have “the keys of the Church,” “the key of knowledge,” and “the keys of all the spiritual blessings of the church” (D&C 42:69;84:19;107:18), while belonging to the Aaronic Priesthood are “the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins” (D&C 13:1;84:26). All these stewardships will eventually be delivered back into the hands of Jesus Christ (TPJS, p. 157).
For further reading: