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“Keys” as Challenge

What if “keys” are better viewed as a signal, or a sign post along a pathway? Instead of “I hold ‘keys’ and so I hold something of value.”

The better view might be “I have been told one ‘key’ to my calling is to have angels minister to men. Therefore, I know this is a critical matter, or a key to search into.”

What if “holding a key” is better viewed as being given a strong guide or route to take? It points you to something you need to obtain. You have a “key” and now need to discover what it is that must be unlocked.

A “key” is something used to open a lock. It is also something that is “important” or “central in importance.” A “keystone” is the point in an arch that fits in the center, holding the arch together. Upon it all else rests.

If the word is viewed using these meanings, it suggests that holding a “key” implies using it in action. The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve use their key positions to manage and maintain the worldwide church organization. If not for that constant oversight, the organization of the church would lapse into disorganization. Their “keys” are indispensable to hold the entire structure together. Without them at the center, like a “keystone,” the “building” would collapse. But the Gospel (and the church) is not a spectator sport. Even if fifteen presiding authorities waste and wear out their lives keeping the church organized, no one will be saved by observing them. It devolves upon us, each one, to obtain the keys of our own salvation by a covenant with God.

Offices belonging to others are their responsibility. For you, there are “keys” which come to us in our own sphere. We are all asked to rise up in testimony and knowledge until, at last, we arrive at “the perfect day” of understanding. (D&C 50: 24.) We are all invited to come to know the Lord, see His face, and know that He is. (D&C 93: 1.)

Can you imagine what a different church it would be if we were all able to say we know for ourselves, nothing doubting, our Lord? Can you imagine how all the problems we now face would evaporate overnight, if our quest was to grow from grace to grace until we too receive of the Father’s fullness? (D&C 93: 20.) Most of what now afflicts us would become trivial, left behind as we grow in light and truth. (D&C 50: 23-25.)

Our temple rites symbolize the trek back to the presence of God. All of us, male and female, receive the same ceremonial blueprint to build upon. Every person within the church should obey and sacrifice (for God and not man), then learn through service, the Gospel of Christ by walking in His footsteps.You agreed to undertake obedience and sacrifice before committing to following His Gospel. This order is critical. Without it, you could err in thinking the Gospel will come to you without sacrifice.

From the Lectures on Faith, Lecture 6:

7. Let us here observe, that a religion [meaning true religion, no matter what another may say or do that tempts you to depart from it] that does not require the sacrifice of all things, never has power [forget about office or position or authority to conduct a meeting, and realize this is the power to obtain eternal life] sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation; for from the first existence of man, the faith necessary unto the enjoyment of life and salvation never could be obtained without the sacrifice of all earthly things [meaning your own reputation, your standing, and any praise you may hope to gain from others– all must be laid upon the altar even if your fellow Latter-day Saint falsely accuses you]: it was through this sacrifice, and this only, that God has ordained that men should enjoy eternal life; and it is through the medium of the sacrifice of all earthly things, that men do actually know that they are doing the things that are well pleasing in the sight of God [because God will make that known directly to you and you will know, nothing doubting]. When a man has offered in sacrifice all that he has, for the truth’s sake, not even withholding his life, and believing before God that he has been called to make this sacrifice, because he seeks to do his will, he does know most assuredly, that God does and will accept his sacrifice & offering, & that he has not nor will not seek his face in vain. Under these circumstances, then, he can obtain the faith necessary for him to lay hold on eternal life.

8 It is in vain for persons to fancy to themselves that they are heirs with those, or can be heirs with them, who have offered their all in sacrifice, and by this means obtained faith in God and favor with him so as to obtain eternal life, unless they in like manner offer unto him the same sacrifice [which you learn in the temple rites and which you have covenanted to do], and through that offering obtain the knowledge that they are accepted of him.

This outlines the “keys” for your own salvation. Seek for these for they belong to each of us. Do not be jealous of church positions, they do not matter and are not necessary. One thing is necessary; therefore choose the better part. (Luke 10: 39-42.)

Keys of Ministering of Angels

The Aaronic Priesthood has the “keys of the ministering of angels.” (D&C 84: 26.) This raises these questions:
-Do the “keys of ministering of angels” guarantee the holder he will entertain angels?
-Does the ministry of angels depend entirely on possession of these keys?
-Does the appearance of an angel necessarily mean the one to whom the angel appears holds the Aaronic Priesthood? Even in the case of a woman, such as Mary? (Luke 1: 26-27.)
-If the appearance of an angel does not equate with holding of the Aaronic Priesthood, then does it equate with holding the keys of ministering of angels?
-Can the keys of ministering of angels be separated from the Aaronic Priesthood, or are they entirely confined to this priesthood?
-If the keys can be separated from the priesthood, then what is priesthood and what are “keys?”

We tend to gloss over a great deal and have too little curiosity about important questions. In The Second Comforter, I explained part of being “childlike” is to possess relentless curiosity about things you do not understand. We should try to get every answer to every question we can obtain from God. First through the scriptures. Then through prayer and inquiry.

What if “keys to the ministering of angels” are not coequal with the Aaronic Priesthood? Who or under what circumstances could angels minister in the absence of Aaronic Priesthood? Are there “keys” conferred whenever an angel ministers to a person, any person? If an angel appears to a woman in Tibet, does that appearance give her the “keys of ministering of angels” even if she is not Mormon? If so, what is meant by “keys of ministering of angels?”

If an angel has appeared to someone outside the church, and if, because of that, the person does hold some “keys” because of an actual appearance, what of the Mormon priest who has never had an angel appear to him? If he has never had an angelic visitor, does he still hold the “keys of the ministering of angels?”

Do “keys of the ministering of angels” guarantee angels will appear? If not, then what do the “keys” entail? What do they confer? Must an angel minister to the key holder if he demands it? Are angels subject to the keys or not? If not, then how should these “keys” be understood:
-As a right?
-As a privilege?
-As an invitation?
-As a matter to inquire into until you have understanding?

What is Meant by Keys

There are many different ways in which the words “key” or “keys” are used in scripture. It is an interesting topic to research. President John Taylor was so interested in the word that he did a study he titled, “The Book of Keys” wherein he attempted to reconstruct the topic in whole. So far as I have been able to learn, that book no longer exists.

In Temple Recommend interviews you are asked to acknowledge the current church president “holds all the keys” and “is the only person authorized to exercise them” on the earth today. This is a question we all answer. But in discussions with bishops, stake presidents, religion professors, friends and mission presidents, I’ve never been able to determine, nor has anyone been able to explain what is included. Below is the answer given in The Encyclopedia of Mormonism, (entry written by Alan Perish):

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).

As far as it goes, I think this is a good attempt. But when church members are asked if the church president holds “all the keys” I cannot be certain the above definition is what is meant. Here is the clearest way I think it is illustrated:

From the smallest branch to the largest ward, through all the areas, missions, stakes, wards and branches of the church, there is not a single place in the church where President Thomas Monson would not be recognized as the presiding authority in any meeting he attended. He could go anywhere, in any location, in any meeting, and he alone would be the final authority. While a bishop presides and has the keys over his ward, and in that ward can call or release anyone to any position, President Monson would preside over that bishop if he were to attend the ward. No one would doubt or question whether President Monson could release and call a replacement bishop in that, or any, ward. The same is true of any stake president, or any mission president or any area authority, or any general authority. There is simply no one other than President Monson alone who holds the keys to put the church in order. Period.

I think this is the best definition of “all the keys.” 

Bearing Testimony v. Presiding

When Mary Magdalene, and Joanna and Mary and other women saw the angels in the empty tomb, and then testified of what they saw and knew, were they disrespecting the proper authority? (Luke 24: 1-10.) Was there something improper about them knowing something that the Lord’s Apostles did not know yet? (Luke 24: 11-12.)

Was there something wrong with the Lord appearing to, and speaking with Mary on the morning of His resurrection, even before He returned to His Father? (John 20: 11-17.)

Was there something improper, too sacred, or too private in these events to prevent these witnesses from testifying of them? Isn’t everyone required to bear their testimony of the Lord? If those who can read the Lord’s revelation are required to testify they have “heard his voice” (D&C 18: 35-36) how much greater an obligation is imposed upon those who have seen Him?

Testimony of Christ is not co-equal with presiding. All who can do so should testify. Presiding, however, is based on the common consent given exclusively to those who are in the church’s hierarchy. Unless sustained to such presiding positions, no one has the right to such office. (D&C 26: 2; 28: 13.)

A Worthy Cause

A family in my ward lost their father in a one-car accident on Tuesday, August 14. He leaves behind a family in need. There is a fund established to help the family members at Wells Fargo Bank. If any of you have the means and would like to do so, donations can be given at any Wells Fargo Bank to: The Todd Kunz Family Memorial Fund.

I have home taught this family for many years. His wife is a wonderful woman left now to care for the family alone. There are two grandchildren belonging to the oldest son and his wife. I’ve followed their son’s missionary work in Kenya and seen the faithfulness of this good family. Another son just finished high school and isn’t old enough for a mission yet. Their youngest daughter is the same age as one of my daughters.

Todd was a gentle, decent and caring man. He did volunteer work at the Utah State Prison, and helped others in need. Circumstances combined to take his life at this moment leave his family in need of help. If you can assist, it will go directly to the fund. Only his family can access the account.

UPDATE: Last four digits of the account for verification purposes 4899

Faith

The scriptures say that without faith it is impossible to please God. (Hebrews 11:6.) Have you thought about what that means? From the Lectures on Faith it is clear that faith is a “principle of action.” If it is a principle of action, whose action is it? Must you do something, and if so, what? What action must you take? What is the role you occupy in faith?

The Lectures on Faith also say that faith is a “principle of power.” What does that mean? Whose power? Is there a relationship between the action of man and the power of God?

Think of any great example of faith in scriptures and apply these questions to them. It can be as simple as David and Goliath, or as complicated as Elijah. After you have studied the example, ask yourself, “what action did the man or woman take? Why did they act in that way? What was the intention? How was God’s power used? Who controlled the power? More precisely, from what source did the power come? Is this principle of power connected with priesthood? (D&C 121:36.) If it is, then when any person exercises faith as a principle of power, are they exercising priesthood?

Proverbs 6: 20 – 23


My son, keep thy father’s commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother: 
Bind them continually upon thine heart, and tie them about thy neck. 
When thou goest, it shall lead thee; when thou sleepest, it shall keep thee; and when thou awakest, it shall talk with thee. 
For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life:
We should teach with more simplicity. We should take the counsel in the scriptures to heart and bind them to us.

The Church’s Greatest Appeal

There are many disagreements among Latter-day Saints. Sitting in on a Sunday lesson in my High Priest’s Group will show just how many topics divide us. We understand a great deal differently from our history, our doctrine, and our priorities. This is normal among any group of people, even when they join together as fellow believers.

The most unifying thing about the church, however, is the service we render to others. Unlike many other denominations, our church is filled with opportunities to serve. It is expected. And it is rendered. Everywhere you turn the members are giving service.

I am not particularly political. The differences between political parties is so little as to not justify enthusiasm for either. However, I watched the evening of Mitt Romney’s acceptance last week. A number of speakers extolled his past service to others. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house as parents spoke about the support they received from Bishop Romney for their troubles.

As I listened, it seemed to me this was a description of a typical Mormon Bishop. It can be found in thousands of wards throughout the church. It is an expected part of the calling. And that service and support is rendered willingly, week after week, throughout the church.

From Home Teachers to Visiting Teachers, Relief Society Presidents and Bishops, Elder’s Quorums and Young Women Leaders, there are continual acts of service and support expected and delivered.

It is my view this is the church’s greatest strength and its greatest appeal. We take it for granted. But when behavior which is “normal” for a Mormon Bishop was put on public display, it touched people to the point of tears. We get used to it. We shouldn’t. It is, after all, the pure religion of Christ. (James 1: 22-27.) It is what we do, more than what we say, that matters in practicing our faith.

This should unify us no matter what may divide us.

Waiting on Others

The fullness of  the Gospel is found in the Book of Mormon. There you will find individual after individual who have returned, through faith, back to God’s presence. Once they have returned to God’s presence, they have a different view of themselves and others.

In the case of Lehi and his family, he listened to the testimony of others warning of the destruction of Jerusalem, took their warning seriously, and begged God on behalf of his people. (1 Ne. 1: 5.) As a result of his intercession and compassion for others, he was visited by God. (1 Ne. 1: 6.)

Lehi’s family did not believe him. They followed him into the wilderness, but only because of the respect accorded to the father in their society. None of the family could believe what he was saying.

The younger son, Nephi, prayed to be able to believe what his father Lehi was saying. Even though Nephi wanted to acquire faith, it was not easy to trust his father’s message. Because of his desire to believe, Nephi reports the Lord “did visit me;” this sounds like something more than it was. The Lord’s initial “visit” to Nephi consisted only in ‘softening Nephi’s heart so that he was able to believe his father.’ (1 Ne. 2: 16.)

This is the beginning. This is the first step. When the Lord first takes hold of your hand, it is a faint grip, a partial contact, a weak beginning. It is the token, however, that everyone must first receive. It comes from obeying and then acting faithfully on what has been shown to you. It requires you to sacrifice your own will to the Lord’s.

No one will return to the presence of God who has not received this gentle grip from the Lord. It is a true token given by the Lord; not just something ceremonial. It is the companion to faith. It is the start of the path you will walk back to the presence of God, passing the sentinels who stand along the way. They will want to know you have learned all you need from your experiences here to be able to return to God’s presence.

When the most dramatic points of struggle happen along the path, the Book of Mormon provides us with a view into the person where the struggle takes place. Nephi’s record of the fullness includes his testimony of kneeling on a dark Jerusalem street where he found the person of Laban lying drunk and unconscious before him. (1 Ne. 4: 7-8.) He disarmed him. Then took the time to admire the weapon of war he had taken from his fallen uncle, noting its precious material and workmanship. (1 Ne. 4: 9.)

While admiring the sword, he had the urge to slay Laban. (1 Ne. 4: 10.) Though Nephi attributed this impulse to “the Spirit” it was nothing more than an impulse. Here is where the cosmic struggle plays out. In Nephi’s heart, there is a strong urge to kill a man which, in Nephi’s life, is unprecedented. It is foreign to him. It is “the Spirit” and not Nephi who has this will to kill the man.

Nephi’s hesitancy is not based solely on moral scruples, but on all he believes about himself. He is not a man of war. He has “never before shed the blood of man” and does not think it appropriate to start now. (1 Ne. 4: 10.) This is not about self control, this is about who his identity. This is who Nephi believes himself to be. He is better than this base impulse. It is beneath him.

When he resists this impulse, “the Spirit” elevates the message. No longer is it “constraint” or inclination, but “the Spirit” now “speaks” to him in unmistakable words. (1 Ne. 4: 11.) The message not only clearly tells Nephi the Lord’s will in ‘delivering Laban into his hands,’ but also makes enough sense to Nephi that he can immediately recognize the many reasons for the Lord accomplishing this. (1 Ne. 4: 11.) The proof of the Lord’s hand lays before Nephi. After all, Laban is lying helpless, and “has been delivered into thy hands” as the most tangible, clear proof of God’s power. (Id.)

Yet all of this struggle is internal to Nephi. You could stand on the same street, at the same moment and see the same scene play out before you, and you would not be a witness to God’s great work underway.

The fullness of the Gospel requires us to recognize the hand of God guiding us. The battle we join is within. No one is spared from these stages of growth and development.

The church cannot provide you with an alternative means to get there. It is between you and God, alone. The scene will be as the Book of Mormon continually portrays it. That record is the most comprehensive retelling of how to return to God’s presence ever compiled. It was put together by those who made the journey along the path, passing all the sentinels who stand guard along the way. They embraced their Lord through the veil before entering again into His presence. Then, having been true and faithful, they were brought back into His presence and redeemed from the fall of mankind. (Ether 3: 13.) They, like the Brother of Jared, were redeemed because of their knowledge. (Ether 3: 19.)

Yet you insist on captivity because you have no knowledge. (Isa. 5: 13.) You take blind guides and are therefore, blinded by your own ignorance. (Matt. 23: 16.) You insist on keeping what can never inform you, while rejecting what is told you in plain words. (2 Ne. 32: 7.) You refuse to see and are willingly blind and therefore the greater darkness lies within you.

You can wait, as one recent and  frequent, anonymous commentator has insisted, until there is a program offered to you by an institution and see how long it takes for you to learn of God. Or, believe in the Book of Mormon and remove yourself from condemnation. (D&C 84: 56-57.) But if you seek for approval from an institution, then the Lord cannot overcome the barrier you have erected between you and Him.