In Gospel Doctrine class today, we read several verses from Doctrine and Covenants in which the keys of the priesthood are referred to. (We are on lesson eight.) An example is D&C 84:19: “This greater priesthood administereth the gospel and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God.”
I was struck by the image of keys because it doesn’t fit with our standard view of authority. Having a key doesn’t make it possible to command someone. The power it gives is the power to open doors, to make things available and possible.
That helped me see events and priesthood in a different light than before:
Joseph received the keys of translation–the power to make the Book of Mormon translation work possible (D&C 6:28). He received the keys of the mysteries and of sealed revelations: he opens the possibility of understanding them (D&C 28:7). He received the keys of the school of the prophets, making that school possible for and available to the early Saints (D&C 90:7).
Peter, James, and John received the keys of “this ministry” until the coming of Christ–they have the ability to take the gospel to the world, to make it available (D&C 77:7); they can open the door to the kingdom of God (D&C 27:13), making it possible for others to enter.
Elias can open the restoration of all things, and Elijah’s keys make it possible for the hearts of the children and fathers to turn to each other. (D&C 27:6, 9).
Michael has the keys of salvation–”under the counsel and direction of the Holy One” (D&C 78:16); under Christ’s direction, he makes salvation possible for us. (Is this a reference to the Fall or to something else?)
The Melchizedek Priesthood makes the spiritual blessings of the Church available to us (D&C 107:18).
The Twelve have the keys for preaching the gospel, they make it possible for us to do so (D&C 107:35).
Oliver Cowdrey and Joseph Smith received the ability to make the gathering of Israel possible (D&C 110:11).
Perhaps this insight is peculiar to me and obvious to everyone else. Or sometimes something that I have always known becomes suddenly even clearer. Perhaps that is what happened. In any case, seeing priesthood as that which makes things possible rather than power over things or power to command made this Sabbath a good one.