Elder Dallin H. Oaks: ‘Keys and authority of the priesthood’

Elder Oaks’ talk has seen the most reaction from the bloggernacle. Since the church takes a while to transcribe these, I have decided to transcribe his talk from yesterday. You can also see it on the official church website by clicking below. What are your thoughts?


At this conference, we’ve seen the release of some faithful brothers, and we have sustained the callings of others. In this rotation, so familiar in the church, we do not step down when we are released, and we do not step up when we are called. There is no up or down in the service of the Lord. There’s only forward or backward, and that difference depends on how we accept and act upon our releases and our callings. I once presided at the release of a young stake president who had given fine service for nine years and was now rejoicing in his release and in the new calling he and his wife had just received. They were called to be the nursery leaders in their ward. Only in this church would that be seen as equally honorable.

While addressing a women’s conference, President Linda K. Burton of the Relief Society said, “we hope to instill within each of us a greater desire to better understand the priesthood. That need applies to all of us, and I will pursue it by speaking of the keys and authority of the priesthood. Since these subjects are of equal concern to men and to women, I’m pleased that these proceedings are broadcast and published for all members of the church. Priesthood power blesses all of us. Priesthood keys direct women as well as men, and priesthood ordinances and priesthood authority pertain to women as well as men.

President Joseph F. Smith described the priesthood as “the power of God, delegated to man by which man can act within the earth for the salvation of the human family.” Other leaders have taught us that the priesthood is the consummate power on this earth. It is the power by which the earth was created. The scriptures teach that this same priesthood, which was in the beginning, shall be in the end of the world also. Thus the priesthood is the power by which we will be resurrected and proceed to eternal life.

The understanding that we seek begins with an understanding of the keys of the priesthood. Priesthood keys are the authority God has given to priesthood holders to direct, control, and govern the use of his priesthood on the earth. Every act or ordinance performed in the Church is done under the direct or indirect authorization of one holding the keys for that function. As Elder M. Russell Ballard has explained, “those who have priesthood keys literally make it possible for all who serve faithfully under their direction to exercise priesthood authority, and have access to priesthood power.”

In controlling the exercise of priesthood authority, the function of priesthood keys both enlarges and limits. It enlarges by making it possible for priesthood authority and blessings to be available for all God’s children. It limits by directing who will be given the authority of the priesthood, who will hold its offices, and how its rights and powers will be conferred. For example, a person who holds the priesthood is not able to confer his office or authority on another, unless authorized by one who holds the keys. Without that authorization, the ordination would be invalid. This explains why a priesthood holder, regardless of office cannot ordain a member of his family, or administer the sacrament in his own home without authorization from the one who holds the appropriate keys.

With the exception of the sacred work that sisters do in the temple under the keys held by the temple president, which I will describe hereafter, only one who holds a priesthood office can officiate in a priesthood ordinance. All authorized priesthood ordinances are recorded on the records of the church.

Ultimately, all keys of the priesthood are held by the Lord Jesus Christ, whose priesthood it is. He is the one who determines what keys are delegated to mortals, and how those keys will be used. We’re accustomed to thinking that all keys of the priesthood were conferred to Joseph Smith in the Kirtland Temple. But the scripture states that all that was conferred there were “The keys of this dispensation.” At General Conference many years ago, President Spencer W. Kimball reminded us that there are other priesthood keys that have not been given to man on the earth, including the keys of creation and resurrection. The divine nature of the limitations put upon the exercise of priesthood keys explains an essential contrast between decisions on matters of church administration, and decisions affecting the priesthood. The First Presidency, and the Council of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve, who preside over the church, are empowered to make many decisions affecting church policy and procedures. Matters such as the location of church buildings, and the ages for missionary service. But even though these presiding hold and exercise all of the keys delegated to men in this dispensation, they are not free to alter the divine decreed pattern that only men will hold offices in the priesthood.

I come now to the subject of priesthood authority. I begin with the three principles just discussed. One, priesthood is the power of God delegated to man to act for the salvation of the human family. Two, priesthood authority is governed by priesthood holders who hold priesthood keys. Three, since the scriptures state that all other authorities and offices in the church are appendages to this Melchizedek Priesthood, all that is done under the direction of those priesthood keys is done with priesthood authority.

How does this apply to women? In an address to the Relief Society, President Joseph Fielding Smith, then president of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles said this: “While the sisters have not been given the priesthood, it has not been conferred upon them, that does not mean that the Lord has not given them authority. A person may have authority given to him, or a sister to her, to do certain things in the church that are binding and absolutely necessary for our salvation, such as the work that our sisters do in the House of the Lord. They have authority given unto them to do some great and wonderful things, sacred unto the Lord, and binding just as thoroughly as are the blessings that are given by men who hold the priesthood.”

In that notable address, President Smith said again and again that women have been given authority. To the women he said you can speak with authority because the Lord has placed authority upon you. He also said that the Relief Society has been given power and authority to do a great many things. The work that they do is “by divine authority.” And of course, the church work done by women or men, whether in the temple, or in the wards or branches, is done under the direction of those who hold priesthood keys. Thus speaking of the Relief Society, President Smith explained, “the Lord has given to them this great organization where they have authority to serve under the direction of the bishops of the wards, looking after the interests of our people, both spiritually and temporally.”

Thus, it is truly said that the Relief Society is not just a class for women, but something they belong to, a divinely established appendage to the priesthood. We’re not accustomed to speaking of women having the authority of the priesthood in their church callings. But what other authority can it be? When a woman, young or old, is set apart to preach the gospel as a full-time missionary, she is given priesthood authority to perform a priesthood function. The same is true when a woman is set apart to function as an officer or teacher in a church organization under the direction of one who holds the keys of the priesthood. Whoever functions in an office or calling received from one who holds priesthood keys, exercises priesthood authority in performing her or his assigned duties.

Whoever exercises priesthood authority should forget about their rights and concentrate on their responsibilities. That is a principle needed in society at large. The famous Russian writer, Alexandr Solzhenitsyn is quoted as saying, “it is time to defend not so much human rights, as human obligations.” Latter-day Saints surely recognize that qualifying for exaltation is not a matter of asserting rights, but a matter of fulfilling responsibilities. The Lord has directed that only men will be ordained to offices in the priesthood, but as various church leaders have emphasized that men are not the priesthood. Men hold the priesthood with a sacred duty to use it for all of the children of God.

“The greatest power God has given to His sons cannot be exercised without the companionship of one of his daughters, because only to his daughters has God given the power to be a creator of bodies so that God’s design and the great plan might meet fruition.” Those are the words of J. Reuben Clark. He continued, “This is the place of our wives and of our mothers in the eternal plan. They are not bearers of the priesthood, they are not charged with carrying out the duties and functions of the priesthood, nor are they laden with its responsibilities. They are builders and organizers under its power and partakers of its blessings, possessing the complement of the priesthood powers and possessing a function as divinely called, as eternally important in its place as the priesthood itself.”

In those inspired words, President Clarke was speaking of the family. As stated in the Family Proclamation, the father presides in the family and he and the mother have separate responsibilities, but they are obligated to help one another as equal partners. Some years before the family proclamation, President Spencer W. Kimball gave this inspired explanation. “When we speak of marriage as a partnership, let us speak of marriage as a full partnership. We do not want our LDS women to be silent partners, or limited partners in that eternal assignment. Please be a contributing and full partner.”

In the eyes of God, whether in the church or in the family, women and men are equal with different responsibilities. I close with some truths about the blessings of the priesthood. Unlike priesthood keys and priesthood ordination, the blessings of the priesthood are available to women and to men on the same terms. The gift of the Holy Ghost and the blessings of the temple are familiar illustrations of this truth. In his insightful talk at BYU Education Week last summer, Elder M. Russell Ballard gave these teachings. Our church doctrine places women equal to, and yet different from men. God, our master does not regard either gender as better or more important than the other. When men and women go to the temple, they are both endowed with the same power which is priesthood power. Access to the power and blessings of the priesthood is available to all of God’s children.”

I testify of the power and blessings of the priesthood of God, available to his sons and daughters alike. I testify of the authority of the priesthood which functions throughout all of the offices and activities of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I testify of the divinely directed function of the keys of the priesthood, held and exercised in their fullness by our prophet president Thomas S. Monson. Finally, and most important, I testify of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, whose priesthood this is, and whose servants we are, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


5 comments on “Elder Dallin H. Oaks: ‘Keys and authority of the priesthood’

  1. […] Conference talk on Saturday night.  Disappointed that the church website didn’t have a transcript, I created one so that we could better discuss what he actually said.  I decided to let that post stand on its […]

  2. […] Conference talk on Saturday night.  Disappointed that the church website didn’t have a transcript, I created one so that we could better discuss what he actually said.  I decided to let that post stand on its […]

  3. As was our mother Eve, she was not a queen unto her husband, and he is not her head as only the Lord is her head, he has no dominion over the woman, or over the earth. He is a husbandman and has a stewardship. May I speak boldly Satan and the Lord do battle over dominion. We has woman are to covenant to with the Lord to be a help meet unto man.
    Mother Eve and all her faithful daughters are Queens and Priestesses and prophetesses, unto the Most High God! She covenanted with the Lord to be a help meet unto her husband and…This is the Matriarchal Priesthood of the Mother…and it was given by Her to all women…
    We may also seek to be called (commissioned) of the Lord…according as to the work He desires us to perform, and for the advancement and cause of His Kingdom, Zion…for we are the daughters of Zion…

    The Melchizedek Priesthood belongs to the Son of God the Great High Priest, and He conferred it upon men. So, I must try to follow His most kind and loving example…and if I speak about things that are most sacred to us as a people and the body of Christ, I hope to offend no one but only edify His people the saints of The Most High God…With that spirit in mind may I continue to speak

    to my brothers and especially to my beloved sisters, unto whom our Heavenly Mother endowed with Her Priesthood, and taught us before our sojourns into mortality. She taught us how to sacrifice to bring about life and light for all mankind. She taught us how to nurture with loving kindness all creation, and especially our families…She is Heavenly Mother Elohim the Other Member of the Godhead, unto whom there is no life without Her…

    All communications and prayers should be directed to our Heavenly Father, through our Mediator Their Only Begotten Son in the Flesh, and we should ask for a confirmation of the truth of all things, from the Other Member of the Godhead The Holy Ghost-The Holy Spirit of Promise-our companion and Friend…

    D&C 66:2 partakers of the glories which are to be revealed in the last days…

    D&C 22:1 That is the New and Everlasting Covenant of our Baptism… to become part of Them again, redeemed from the fall…and inter in at the strait gate through immersion in the water and the blood, we are cleansed of our sins…being born again and by partaking these emblems of the sacrifice of Their Son…and promising to obey His commandments…because by Him were we created in Their Image…Male and Female…Then we can receive The Fire of The Holy Ghost, He is a Revelator and Testifier of All Truth where in ye are justified…to enter again into the Kingdom of Heaven!

    Progress on to more priesthood and covenants in the temple endowment, where we follow in the footsteps of our first parents Adam and Eve…they teach; along with the Holy Ghost who is our Guide… how to regain the Presence of our Heavenly Parents, by using our tokens to receive Heavenly Beings to instruct us…and how to remove Lucifer and the teachings of wise men mingled with scripture …Orthodox-Religion..We desire to receive further light and knowledge from messengers of Heavenly Father…in the name of Jesus Christ…Amen…

    I received this word, this morning one day before the Easter Sunday, from Mother in Heaven
    O MY Beloved captive daughters of Zion…
    Isaiah 52:2
    2 Shake thyself from the dust; arise, and sit down, O Jerusalem: loose thyself from the bands of thy neck, O captive daughter of Zion.
    D&C 113: (My inspired words from Mother are in parentheses)
    7 Questions by Elias Higbee: What is meant by the command in Isaiah, 52d chapter, 1st verse, which saith: Put on thy strength, O Zion—and what people had Isaiah reference to? (MOTHERS…and DAUGHTERS…PRIESTHOOD…POWER…)
    8 He had reference to those (Women) whom God should call in the last days, who should hold the power of priesthood to bring again Zion, and the redemption of Israel; and to put on her strength is to put on the authority of the priesthood, which she, Zion, has a right to by lineage; also to return to that power which she had lost.

    Goodbye for now, I pray you will all have a beautiful Easter in celebration of our Resurrected Lord and His Victory, for all of us! I hope you will take these words unto the Lord in humble prayer to receive a confirmation of The Holy Ghost if you also find they are true…Then rejoice as I do, and celebrate with the Heavens, and come singing and praising unto” The Most High God, Jesus Christ the King of Zion”…

  4. […] some debate about whether women actually hold the priesthood when performing temple ordinances.  Elder Oaks recently said “With the exception of the sacred work that sisters do in the temple under the keys held by […]

  5. […] some debate about whether women actually hold the priesthood when performing temple ordinances.  Elder Oaks recently said “With the exception of the sacred work that sisters do in the temple under the keys held by the […]

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