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How the Aaronic Priesthood Applies to Me, a 40-something Woman

How the Aaronic Priesthood Applies to Me, a 40-something Woman February 23, 2021

How does the Aaronic Priesthood apply to you?  Finding out if, and how, the Aaronic Priesthood applied to me was an awesome road of discovery.

One of my favorite passages of scripture is Oliver Cowdery’s footnote at the end of Joseph Smith-History.  Oliver’s words, full of imagery, transport my mind to Harmony, Pennsylvania, and the banks of the Susquehanna River.

“These were days never to be forgotten—to sit under the sound of a voice dictated by the inspiration of heaven, awakened the utmost gratitude of this bosom! Joseph Smith-History 1:75 footnote)

Oliver related how, during the translation of the Book of Mormon, he and Joseph recognized a specific mode of baptism in the Book of Mormon administered by authority.  Recognizing that mode of baptism didn’t exist according to their knowledge, Joseph and Oliver found a secluded place to pray near the Susquehanna River.

While they prayed, they heard the voice of the Lord speaking to them out of heaven! A resurrected John the Baptist descended from heaven and explained the priesthood and mode of baptism, ordained them to the Aaronic Priesthood, and then witnessed their baptism. When ordaining Joseph and Oliver, John laid his resurrected hands on their heads and said,

“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…” (Doctrine and Covenants 13:1).

The Lesser or Preparatory Priesthood

My whole life I’ve heard the Aaronic Priesthood referred to as the “lesser” or “preparatory” priesthood.  Something about those words in my life’s context as a young woman translated to the Aaronic Priesthood is “less than” and therefore “not important or applicable” to me.  I saw it as some sort of priesthood ladder that the young men I knew needed to climb to finally receive the real priesthood, the Melchizedek Priesthood. And while the Aaronic Priesthood certainly does aid priesthood holders to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood, I didn’t see how it connected to me much.

I memorized John’s words to Joseph and Oliver as a seminary student.  I pondered the words and felt like I was really missing something about how the Aaronic Priesthood related to me.

One of my favorite ways to study the scriptures is by comparing scriptures with the same words to see what I can learn about that word’s meaning.  So I looked up the words preparatory and preparation in the Topical Guide to see what I could find.

I found preparatory in Doctrine and Covenants 84:26.

And the lesser priesthood continued, which priesthood holdeth the key of the ministering of angels and the preparatory gospel;

Preparatory Gospel

This preparatory gospel totally caught me off guard.  Preparatory gospel?  That would apply to me, wouldn’t it?  I kept reading.

Which gospel is the gospel of repentance and of baptism, and the remission of sins, and the law of carnal commandments, which the Lord in his wrath caused to continue with the house of Aaron among the children of Israel until John, whom God raised up, being filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother’s womb.

For he was baptized while he was yet in his childhood, and was ordained by the angel of God at the time he was eight days old unto this power, to overthrow the kingdom of the Jews, and to make straight the way of the Lord before the face of his people, to prepare them for the coming of the Lord, in whose hand is given all power. (Doctrine and Covenants 84:26-28).

I could tell that this preparatory gospel directly related to (and was) the Aaronic Priesthood!  It had the same components:  ministery of angels, repentance, and baptism for the remission of sins.

The reference to John also followed the pattern of the Aaronic Priesthood.  He experienced the ministry of angels and was baptized for the remission of sins.

The last part of verse 28 really caught my eye.  What was the purpose of the Aaronic Priesthood?

…to make straight the way of the Lord before the face of his people, to prepare them for the coming of the Lord….

There was the preparatory piece that evaded my understanding.  The Aaronic Priesthood prepared people for the coming of the Lord!

Aaronic Priesthood olden keys set on scripture
Photo by Carolyn V on Unsplash

Aaronic Priesthood Offices and Ordinances

So I went back to study the Aaronic Priesthood and what I knew about it. How did its offices and ordinances help prepare people for the coming of the Lord?

Doctrine and Covenants 20 sets forth the offices and ordinances of the Aaronic Priesthood. The offices are priest, teacher, and deacon, with the bishop as the president of the priests quorum.

The priest’s duty is to preach, teach, expound, exhort, and baptize, and administer the sacrament,

This summarized it in a nutshell for me. Preach, teach, expound, exhort, and baptize.  And the two ordinances of the Aaronic Priesthood are baptism by immersion for the remission of sins and the sacrament.

To continue on duties:

And visit the house of each member, and exhort them to pray vocally and in secret and attend to all family duties.

And he may also ordain other priests, teachers, and deacons.

And he is to take the lead of meetings when there is no elder present;

But when there is an elder present, he is only to preach, teach, expound, exhort, and baptize,

And visit the house of each member, exhorting them to pray vocally and in secret and attend to all family duties.

In all these duties the priest is to assist the elder if occasion requires.

Duty of Teachers and Deacons

The teacher’s duty is to watch over the church always, and be with and strengthen them;

And see that there is no iniquity in the church, neither hardness with each other, neither lying, backbiting, nor evil speaking;

See that there is no iniquity in the church!  No hardness, no lying, no gossip!  This change of heart and mindset enables people to prepare to meet the Lord.

And see that the church meet together often, and also see that all the members do their duty.

And he is to take the lead of meetings in the absence of the elder or priest—

And is to be assisted always, in all his duties in the church, by the deacons, if occasion requires.

But neither teachers nor deacons have authority to baptize, administer the sacrament, or lay on hands;

They are, however, to warn, expound, exhort, and teach, and invite all to come unto Christ.   (Doctrine and Covenants 20:46-59.)

They invite all to come to Christ—by preparing to meet Him.

Aaronic Priesthood in Action

Last year when my dad was on the brink of death with COVID-19, our family reached out on social media asking for faith, prayers, good vibes, whatever someone felt comfortable offering. My sister, Destinee, and her husband, Xavier, married last year and moved into a new ward. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, they didn’t really know many of their ward members but had connected to some on social media who joined their faith and prayers with ours.

One day a knock on her door brought Destinee face to face with her ward’s deacons quorum president, a young man between 11 and 13 years old.  He handed her a bouquet of flowers and a handwritten note.

Hello Destinee White,

I was just thinking about you and Xavier and what you guys are going through and you and Xavier’s faith in Jesus Christ.  Your dad will be okay. I’ve been in the same situation as you a couple of times and it’s hard but just like in the latest conference, lift your head and say, “Everything will be okay.”

-Deacons Quorum President

Aaronic Priesthood
Deacons Quorum President’s note to Destinee White

This small yet meaningful gesture totally accomplished part of his stewardship!  He testified of Christ.  He encouraged her continued faith in Christ.  His note, flowers, and presence powerfully impacted us.

Preparation

During my study on Aaronic Priesthood, I turned to the word preparation after I finished all the verses with preparatory in them.

The standout verse for me contained the Savior’s voice.

Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men. (Doctrine and Covenants 19:19.)

He finished His preparations! What did that mean?  I popped back over to earlier in the chapter and found Aaronic Priesthood language.

Therefore I command you to repent—repent, lest I smite you by the rod of my mouth, and by my wrath, and by my anger, and your sufferings be sore—how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not.

For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent;

But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I;

Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink—

Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men. (Doctrine and Covenants 19:15-19.)

To that point in my life, I had never connected the Aaronic Priesthood with the Savior’s atonement.  It wasn’t even in the same universe to me.  (Now, additionally, I understand how the Law of Moses, with its Levitical sacrifices, stood as a type for Jesus Christ’s sacrifice.  But I didn’t really get it then. Back to the lesson.)

Aaronic Priesthood Components Present

Luke recorded the ministry of an angel during Gethsemane.

And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed,

Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.

And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him.

And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground. (Luke 22:41-44.)

Ministry of angels.  Suffering through a bloody baptism to remit the sins of all mankind who would repent. Finishing His preparations paved the way for all of us to return to the Father!

Jesus Christ’s atonement applies to me!  I must embrace this preparatory gospel for salvation!

Seeing these connections also really brought this scripture to life:

…if ye are prepared ye shall not fear.  And that ye might escape the power of the enemy, and be gathered unto me a righteous people, without spot and blameless. (Doctrine and Covenants 38:30.)

Finishing My Preparations

Will we ever finish preparing?  What happens if/when we do?

I popped back to one of the great priesthood sections, Doctrine and Covenants 84.  After the “lesser” priesthood is the “greater” priesthood.

And this greater priesthood administereth the gospel and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God.

So the Aaronic Priesthood’s keys pertain to the ministering of angels, gospel of repentance, and baptism by immersion for the remission of sins. The Melchizedek Priesthood’s keys pertain to the mysteries of the kingdom, even the knowledge of God.

Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest.

And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh;

For without this no man can see the face of God, even the Father, and live. (Doctrine and Covenants 84:19-22.)

These verses reminded me that each priesthood administers a baptism.  The Aaronic Priesthood’s baptism is the baptism of water. The Melchizedek Priesthood’s baptism is the baptism of fire.  After the baptism of water and during the confirmation ordinace, we are commanded to receive the Holy Ghost.

And this is my gospel—repentance and baptism by water, and then cometh the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, even the Comforter, which showeth all things, and teacheth the peaceable things of the kingdom. (Doctrine and Covenants 39:6.)

Receiving

Picking up in Section 84:33,

For whoso is faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods of which I have spoken, and the magnifying their calling, are sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies.

They become the sons of Moses and of Aaron and the seed of Abraham, and the church and kingdom, and the elect of God.

And also all they who receive this priesthood receive me, saith the Lord;

We first receive the Holy Ghost.  Then we receive Jesus Christ.

For he that receiveth my servants receiveth me;

And he that receiveth me receiveth my Father;

We receive God the Father!

And he that receiveth my Father receiveth my Father’s kingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him.

And this is according to the oath and covenant which belongeth to the priesthood.

Therefore, all those who receive the priesthood, receive this oath and covenant of my Father, which he cannot break, neither can it be moved. (Doctrine and Covenants 84:33-40.)

To me, this is the ultimate promise of the preparatory priesthood.  We can repent of our sins, be baptized, becoming totally clean and prepared to meet the Lord, so that through the Melchizedek Priesthood’s power and ordinances we can receive each member of the Godhead — first the Holy Ghost, then Jesus Christ, then God the Father.

And What of the Sacrament?

For me, experiencing the sacrament with a ward, or with my family during COVID-19 restrictions, teaches me so much about Zion, the place and the people.  As we each come to the sacrament prepared, we are all unitedly repentant with an eye single to Jesus Christ’s atoning sacrifice for us.

As holders of the Aaronic Priesthood administer the sacrament to us, the bread and water sanctify us, and our sins are remitted. At that moment, we sit in a room full of clean and holy people who are prepared to meet the Lord.

The lessons I learned with a little bit of effort changed my perspective on the Aaronic Priesthood forever.  Now instead of ho-humming about it and believing it doesn’t really apply to me, I seek to understand, and do, everything I can about the keys of ministering of angels, the gospel of repentance, and the baptism of immersion for the remission of sins — that preparatory gospel — so I can fully receive the blessings and promises of the Melchizedek Priesthood.

Truly these are our days never to be forgotten!


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