|The priesthood is power given by God to man, so that men may have the authority to act in His name. Christ gave the priesthood to the Twelve Apostles, but after the ascension of Christ, as the Apostles died or were killed, the authority of the priesthood was lost.For centuries man did not have the power to act in God’s name. Then in 1829, Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon Church, was translating the Book of Mormon. With his scribe, Oliver Cowdery, Joseph Smith read a passage about baptism in 3 Nephi 11:21-27.They decided to ask God about baptism and what they needed to do. On May 15, 1829, while they were praying in the woods, a heavenly messenger appeared. Joseph Smith recorded, “we still continued the work of translation, when, in the ensuing month (May, 1829), we on a certain day went into the woods to pray and inquire of the Lord respecting baptism for the remission of sins, that we found mentioned in the translation of the plates. While we were thus employed, praying and calling upon the Lord, a messenger from heaven descended in a cloud of light, and having laid his hands upon us, he ordained us.”1The messenger told them that he was John the Baptist. He gave Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith the Aaronic or lesser priesthood, which has the authority to baptize. In Joseph Smith – History, found in the Pearl of Great Price, Joseph recorded what John the Baptist said when he gave them the Aaronic priesthood, “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.”2 Joseph and Oliver then baptized each other in the Susquehanna River. For the first time in centuries man had the proper authority to act in God’s name.John the Baptist taught Joseph and Oliver that the Aaronic priesthood that they had just received, did not have the authority to give the gift of the Holy Ghost, and that they would be given another order of the priesthood to do this. A short time after receiving the Aaronic priesthood from John the Baptist, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were visited by more heavenly messengers, these messengers were the apostles Peter, James, and John. They gave Joseph and Oliver the Melchizedek or greater priesthood. This priesthood gave them the authority to organize Christ’s Church on the earth, and give the gift of the Holy Ghost. Joseph and Oliver were then ordained as apostles to be special witnesses of Christ. The authority carried by Christ’s original Twelve Apostles was now restored and the organization of Christ’s Church could now be carried out.
1 Joseph Smith – History 1:68
2 Joseph Smith – History 1:69
Go to the next article in the Beliefs section: Responsible Sins.