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The Aaronic Priesthood is the authority for men to act in the name of God, according to Church president Thomas S. Monson, so that people might come unto Christ (“A Royal Priesthood,” Ensign, Nov 2007). The Aaronic Priesthood is also the authority to preach the gospel of repentance and perform the saving ordinance of baptism (D&C 107:20).

According to Jesus, without Aaronic Priesthood authority, baptisms could neither be “bound on earth” nor “bound in heaven” (Matthew 16:19). This means that baptisms that are not performed by the authority of the Aaronic Priesthood cannot be acknowledged by God when men are dead. Therefore, without the Aaronic Priesthood, salvation would be impossible.

John the Baptist held the Aaronic Priesthood

In the early part of the first century A.D., an unparalleled event occurred. A prophet emerged from the Judean wilderness with a message that would forever change the world. That prophet was John the Baptist, and his message was “Prepare ye the way of the Lord.” Significantly, the way that John prepared the people for Jesus’ coming was through “baptism of repentance for the remission of sins” (Luke 3:3-4).

President Monson taught that John the Baptist held the Aaronic Priesthood, therefore he could baptize with proper authority (“Preparing the Way,” Ensign, May 1980). So essential is receiving an authorized baptism that Jesus said it was necessary for salvation in the kingdom of God: “Except a man be born of water [baptism] and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5).

Jesus set the example of receiving an authorized baptism from someone who held the Aaronic Priesthood (Matthew 3:13-17).

The Aaronic Priesthood is the Authority and Power of God

The Aaronic Priesthood takes its name from Aaron, who was the brother of Moses (Exodus 4:14; 15:20).  Through Moses, God appointed Aaron and his sons to “minister unto me in the priest’s office” (Exodus 28:1). The priesthood that Aaron received anciently became known as the Aaronic Priesthood or sometimes the Levitical Priesthood, because Aaron and his sons were of the tribe of Levi.

In terms of authority, power, dominion and glory, nothing on earth—no exalted position, no amount of wealth, no military might—compares with the priesthood of our Lord. The lyric of a popular hymn reads:

…Power by earthly standards
Comes by rank or wealth or sword;
But the power above all others
Is the priesthood of our Lord (Hymns 320).

Among the transcendent powers of the Aaronic Priesthood, it is also the authority to watch over the Lord’s people and prepare them, as John the Baptist did, to receive the higher law of the gospel that Jesus taught (Hebrews 7:12).

Restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood  

After the martyrdoms of John the Baptist and of Jesus’ apostles, the authority of the Aaronic Priesthood was taken from the earth. Consequently, during the long subsequent centuries of spiritual darkness, no baptisms could be done with proper authority.

Then, nearly eighteen hundred years later, the bright beams of morning broke on a world that had been groping in the gloom of perpetual night. The long anticipated day of the restoration had come at last. Now The Church of Jesus Christ with all of its ancient authorities, powers, covenants and ordinances was once again upon the earth in its fulness. The prophet of the Restoration was Joseph Smith.

Central to the restoration of The Church of Jesus Christ was the restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood. When Joseph Smith and his scribe, Oliver Cowdrey, were translating the Book of Mormon, the Prophet found mention of baptism for the remission of sins.

On May 15, 1829, he and Oliver went into the woods in Harmony, New York to inquire of the Lord concerning baptism. As they prayed, “a messenger from heaven descended in a cloud of light.” That messenger was the resurrected John the Baptist, the same ancient prophet who had baptized Jesus Christ and who had given his life for his testimony.

John the Baptist laid his hands on the heads of Joseph and Oliver and conferred upon them the Aaronic Priesthood, thus restoring the authority to baptize. With the authority of the Aaronic Priesthood, Joseph and Oliver were able to baptize one another (JSM 1:68-72).

From that day until now, the authority of the Aaronic Priesthood has allowed individuals to receive an authoritative baptism and thus enter into the family and true Church of Jesus Christ. 

More about “Aaronic Priesthood”

“Aaronic Priesthood” was written by Larry Barkdull. The subject, “Aaronic Priesthood,” is of vital importance to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. If you would like to know more about Mormons with no obligation, please click on the following links:

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