Power or authority of God. The priesthood was conferred through the laying on of hands upon adult male members of the church in good standing; no specialized training was required. Priesthood officers held responsibility for administering the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper and other ordinances, overseeing pastoral duties, preaching, and proselytizing. A September 1832 revelation specified that there were two levels of priesthood: a greater priesthood, which held “the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God,” and a lesser priesthood, which held “the key of the ministering of angels and the preparatory gospel” [Doctrine and Covenants 84:19, 26]. The circa April 1835 “Instruction on Priesthood” clarified that those ordained to the higher priesthood had responsibility over “all spiritual blessings in the church,” while those ordained to the lesser priesthood managed the “outward ordinances” and temporal matters [D&C 107:13-15, 21, 60-63]. This same text further organized the hierarchy of various priesthood degrees, explaining that while the presidency of the high priesthood had “a right to officiate in all these offices of the church,” the remaining priesthood officers could officiate in only their own and lower offices [D&C 107:9-10, 13-15, 60-63]. In addition, the Instruction on Priesthood designated the lesser priesthood as the Aaronic priesthood and the greater priesthood as the Melchizedek priesthood. Joseph Smith taught that it was necessary for presidents to govern defined groups holding a specific priesthood office, referred to as quorums by 1835 [D&C 107:21-22]. According to revelations and Joseph Smith’s accounts, Smith received the keys, or governing authority in the priesthood, from the biblical figures John the Baptist; Peter, James, and John; and Moses, Elias, and Elijah [D&C 27:12-13; 110:11-16]. See also Keys and High Priesthood.
Retrieved with permission from The Joseph Smith Papers.