There are 9 thoughts on “On Being the Sons of Moses and Aaron: Another Look at Interpreting the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood”.

  1. Brother Hamstead,
    I greatly enjoyed the article, it has opened so new avenues of thought concerning a subject I have been searching for several, 33, years. I was looking at the Oath and Covenant more simply. The dictionary has been a great help when studying as well. A couple of points though:

    1. Obtain means “Acquire through planing and endeavor” not just to get or receive and it comes from the Latin obtinere meaning Ob – intensively Tinere – to hold

    2. The Sons of Moses and Aaron were Levites who performed the Saving ordinances of the Mosaic Law until the Savior came and did away with those ordinances.

    So when we “are faithful in obtaining” the priesthood, in my opinion, we have to decide what it is we want to do in our lives and plan how we are to acquire that goal; then change our life so we can receive it. Then once we get it we must work with all our might to keep it. We can do this by helping provide the Saving ordinances of the Gospel to our family and friends, living a or not, by missionary work and Family History.

    Thanks for letting me offer my opinion. sincerely,

    Clyde A. Murray

  2. When folks want to quote the oath and covenant of the priesthood, they often start with verse 33. But verse 33 is a middle, not a beginning. The first word of the verse is “For,” which signals that verses 33 and 34 are a continuation and explanation of the thought that has come before:

    “And THE SONS OF MOSES AND OF AARON shall be filled with the glory of the Lord, upon Mount Zion in the Lord’s house, WHOSE SONS ARE YE; and also many whom I have called and sent forth to build up my church. FOR WHOSO IS FAITHFUL unto the obtaining these two priesthoods of which I have spoken, and the magnifying their calling, ARE SANCTIFIED BY THE SPIRIT UNTO THE RENEWING OF THEIR BODIES. THEY BECOME the sons of Moses and of Aaron and the seed of Abraham, and the church and kingdom, and the elect of God.

    Verses 33 and 34 thus explain how it is that the Lord could speak of Anglo-Saxons like Joseph Smith, the elders with him, and others as “the sons of Moses and of Aaron”: they become such by an operation of the Spirit upon their bodies.

    I believe Joseph Smith was referring to that operation of the Spirit when he taught:

    “There are two Comforters spoken of. One is the Holy Ghost, the same as given on the day of Pentecost, and that all Saints receive after faith, repentance, and baptism. This first Comforter or Holy Ghost has no other effect than pure intelligence. It is more powerful in expanding the mind, enlightening the understanding, and storing the intellect with present knowledge, of a man who is of the literal seed of Abraham, than one that is a Gentile, though it may not have half as much visible effect upon the body; for as the Holy Ghost falls upon one of the literal seed of Abraham, it is calm and serene; and his whole soul and body are only exercised by the pure spirit of intelligence; WHILE THE EFFECT OF THE HOLY GHOST UPON A GENTILE IS TO PURGE OUT THE OLD BLOOD AND MAKE HIM ACTUALLY OF THE SEED OF ABRAHAM. THAT MAN THAT HAS NONE OF THE BLOOD OF ABRAHAM (NATURALLY) MUST HAVE A NEW CREATION BY THE HOLY GHOST. In such a case, there may be more of a powerful effect upon the body, and visible to the eye, than upon an Israelite, while the Israelite at first might be far before the Gentile in pure intelligence.”

    Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 149-150.

    Thus, the Spirit somehow “renews” or effects a “new creation” of the body to make one “actually” a son of Moses and of Aaron and the seed of Abraham. I have not knowingly observed any such renewal and do not know how literally it is to be understood (although it sounds literal). But I do believe that’s the correct understanding of the revelation. So I was delighted to learn from Brother Hamstead’s article that the earliest transcriptions of verses 33 and 34 read: “are sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies THAT they become ….”

    [Sorry for the ALL CAPS, but I couldn’t find a way to bold or italicize text.]

  3. Great paper. Will take some time for “oath and covenant” to be re-branded as “new and everlasting covenant” but it makes sense of a section that I never fully got. It always seemed confusing, no matter how many times I read it.

    Have you found others who have written about how the Exodus typologically represents man’s journey in mortality? Should we be applying verses 23-27 to ourselves somehow? Moses represents Jesus. Aaron represents his priesthood helpers. Jesus is trying to sanctify each of us as we travel through the wilderness so we can behold the face of God, enter into His rest or presence and behold the fullness of his glory? Deep!

    Through the ordinances (and associated covenants) of the priesthood Jesus is doing the same thing with anyone who will “receive” them. Through the power of the Holy Ghost and by way of imperfect mortal priesthood holders who represent Him. Way deep!

    Do you think we should re-punctuate verses 5-6 to better align with verse 32?

    Great article!

    • Hi
      The concept of the exodus journey being a type of our mortal journey is not new. Paul alludes to it in 1 Cor 10:1-11, including the crossing of the Red Sea as a type of baptism. I think section 84 expands on this more explicitly linking in priesthood and priesthood ordinances.

      I agree that Moses is also a type of Christ – he says ‘the Lord the God will raise up unto thee a prophet…like unto me’ (Deut 18:15) and Nephi explicitly states that the prophet Moses was referring to is Christ (2 Ne 22:20-21). Moses acts in many ways like Christ, pleading for his people and obtaining mercy (similar to what the Saviour does – see D&C 45:3-5), he is unique among them in his level of access to God for the people, and he conveys the commandments of God to the people – just as Jesus conveyed the words of the Father to the people in his life. Yet he also acts as a prophet/priest officiating in ordinances, leading as a mortal man, and we know that the God he spoke to was in fact Christ.
      In my opinion in different ways he represents both Christ himself and those who act for him and bring people to Christ – the Melchizedek Priesthood holders, being holders of the priesthood ‘after the order of the Son of God’ (D&C 107:3).

      We well know the story of Israel’s return to idolatry – worshipping the golden calf – and subsequent rebellions which delayed their entry into the promised land, and resulted in the people generally not becoming a ‘nation of priests’ and not receiving the temple ordinances. They apparently could not endure the presence of the Lord. Interestingly though, Exodus 24 contains an account of Moses putting seventy of the elders of Israel under covenant, then taking them into the presence of the Lord, in a way that has a lot of resonance with the endowment – an altar, sacrifice, instruction, making of covenants, progress into the presence of God. It appears Moses took some into the presence of God, but the bulk of the people were not ready.

      The main application of this me as a priesthood holder is that the focus of our work is inviting, encouraging, and teaching people to receive covenants and ordinances so they can enter into the presence of the Father and endure His presence, or in other words ‘live’ (have eternal life) with Him. First symbolically in the temple, second actually after the end of our mortal probation.

      You make a good point about verse 5 and 6 – indeed the beginning of verse 6 could easily be moved to the end of verse 5 so the connection of the sons of Moses being ‘filled with the Glory of the Lord’ is more obvious, consistent with verse 32.

      Thank you for your very thoughtful incites.

  4. With respect to “magnifying their callings”, I think the most meaningful way to understand this phrase is through the Parable of the Talents. Each servant of the Lord is entrusted with varying amounts of the Lord’s treasure. When he returns and asks for them to account for their stewardship, he commends those who increase the treasure entrusted to them, and the reward is increased stewardship based on their faithful care of the initial treasure. The Lord’s treasure is the souls who are gathered to him, so the increase of the treasure means increasing the Lord’s treasure of souls in both number and quality. Our callings are not measured in how much honor or glory or power we hold, but in our “feeding his sheep”, nourishing his saints just as the Lord would do if he were doing it himself. In my current calling as a ward mission leader, I am magnifying my calling when I help the full time missionaries to teach and convert investigators, and this often includes bringing their spouses and children into full participation in the ordinances and blessings of the Gospel. The new emphasis on “ministering” focuses on the true “magnifying our callings” through blessing those entrusted to our care.

    I believe this understanding ties directly to your proposed understanding of “renewing the bodies” of the Church, bringing the saints to inherit all that the Father has.

  5. I enjoyed the article a lot. It did, however, overcomplicate the message of D & C 84. I see the message as quite simple: learn, do, and follow the instructions and examples of the prophets and other servants of the Lord AND THE WHISPERINGS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT continually. Then the Holy Ghost will sanctify you, meaning the Holy Ghost will cleanse you and empower you and make you Christlike in your nature – ultimately leading to exaltation in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom as part of the eternal family that includes Abraham, Moses, and Aaron. Thus we will receive the same promises and blessings that Abraham, Moses, and Aaron received. In this sanctification process you will occasionally experience a physical renewal of your body such as I saw in Church President Spencer W. Kimball when he dedicated the Washington, D.C. temple. I also occasionally experienced this physical renewal when as a member of the bishopric of a highly transient ward, I would set apart many people in ward positions. When the setting aparts were completed, I would feel tired – pleasantly tired – but definitely tired. Although I had not lost the spirit, the Holy Ghost was no longer “renewing” my body as the Holy Ghost had done during all the settings apart.

    Of course, women can – AND DO – experience this sanctification by the Holy Ghost. I think that more women than men experience this sanctification. The new revelation doing away with hometeaching, and introducing “ministering” is both reassuring and sad. It’s sad because it means that the men in the church have failed to minister as hometeachers. Do any of you remember “ward teaching”? I’m convinced that if ward teachers had magnified their callings as D & C 84 instructs, then we wouldn’t have needed a revelation to introduce hometeaching. If hometeachers had magnified their callings as D & C 84 instructs, then we wouldn’t have needed the current revelation to “minister” which is what the ward teachers and the hometeachers should have been doing all along. I believe that more instruction on ministering and the instruction in D & C 84 are given to the men than to the women in the church because the women understand and do these principles far better than the men do. Even though I’ve had good hometeachers, I’m amazed at the love and service that my wife’s visiting teachers have shown her. These visiting teachers have already been “ministering.”

    The new revelation doing away with hometeaching, and introducing “ministering” is reassuring as well as sad because the revelation shows again the Lord’s great love for and patience with His children in again trying to teach them to love their neighbor and not just visit them on the last day of the month. D & C 84 teaches all of this quite clearly. D & C 84 is as relevant today as it was in Joseph Smith’s time.

    • Glad you liked the article.
      An important point for me in s84 is the message that being a priesthood holder means taking on (inheriting as sons) the role of Moses and Aaron, that is teaching, leading, and helping people to receive baptism and temple ordinances, to trust and rely on Christ (the living bread and water) from day to day, and thereby to prepare them to return to the presence of the Father in the celestial kingdom. This is shown in type by how Moses and Aaron anciently led their people out of the captivity of Egypt, through the waters of the Red Sea to the temple at Mount Sinai, providing manna and water in the wilderness, loving, teaching and occasionally correcting them, as they made their way to the Promised Land.
      For me this means a priesthood holder’s focus should be on helping people make and keep covenants with their associated ordinances, and the typological representation of the ordinances (baptism, sacrament, temple ordinances) in the exodus journey is in my view amazing.
      The new ministering program is fantastic and inspired, but it is a program, and programs change from time to time as times and circumstances change. It is to help us implement the underlying doctrine and principle, which has not changed. I would argue that the focus of ‘ministering’ remains on the fundamental doctrine of the need to help members progress through and keep priesthood ordinances and covenants, as taught in DC 84.
      This is not a new message. I have heard the brethren teach us to focus on ordinances and covenants for years now. I think the imagery used in s84 and of the exodus journey is helpful in understanding and teaching that.

      • I agree with you that church leaders at every level have a special responsibility to help members make and keep their covenants – the most important of which is loving the Lord. I find it fascinating that at least on 3 occasions the Lord measured the love of God by how much we loved our neighbors:

        1) Matthew 25: 33 -46: When I was hungry, you fed me. When I was thirsty, you gave me drink, etc. In as much as you have done it unto the least of these, you have done it unto me.

        2) The Savior asks Peter, Lovest thou me? 3 times. When Peter answers yes, 3 times, Jesus responds each time. “Feed my sheep.”

        3) When asked what was the greatest commandment, the Savior answered that the greatest commandment was to love the Lord with all your heart, might, etc. Then the Savior said that the 2nd greatest commandment was like unto it: to love thy neighbor as thyself.

        Thus, ministering – a word that might be defined as an inspired, organized way of loving our neighbor (and thus loving God) – becomes the essence of our stewardships.

        Thus I also think that every member has the responsibility to help those in the member’s stewardship (e.g. parent, hometeacher, visiting teacher, Primary teacher, Sunday school teacher, deacon, elder) to make and keep their covenants – the most important of which is loving the Lord by ministering to His children. I enjoy your analogies that we all have our captivities to escape (e.g. bad habits), our Red Seas to cross (e.g. challenges), and our Promised Land to reach (becoming Christlike, being exalted) as taught in D & C 84.

  6. In your article you say:
    “Obtaining” the priesthood has generally been read to mean the ordination to the priesthood by one having authority.
    and
    “Receiving” the priesthood can be interpreted two ways. The first is to have it conferred upon you, and thus to become a priesthood holder. The second is to receive the ministrations of priesthood holders, specifically, to receive ordinances and covenants administered by priesthood holders.

    It seems to me that the first interpretation would mean that obtaining and receiving the priesthood are synonymous. If that is true, why is the same word not used in both places? It seems more likely to me, and apparently to you, that obtaining the priesthood refers to being ordained to the priesthood, while receiving the priesthood refers to receiving the ordinances of the priesthood.

    Perhaps receiving the priesthood has especial reference to receiving the temple ordinances based on the preliminary discussion in D&C 84 regarding the temple (v. 4-5 house shall be built unto the Lord, and a cloud shall rest upon it, which cloud shall be even the glory of the Lord, which shall fill the house; v. 31-32 And the sons of Moses and of Aaron shall be filled with the glory of the Lord, upon Mount Zion in the Lord’s house; v. 19-25 Now this Moses plainly taught to the children of Israel in the wilderness, and sought diligently to sanctify his people that they might behold the face of God; But they hardened their hearts and could not endure his presence; therefore, the Lord in his wrath, for his anger was kindled against them, swore that they should not enter into his rest while in the wilderness, which rest is the fulness of his glory.)

    A slightly different take on receiving and obtaining comes from Elder Paul B. Pieper (“The Realities of Mortality”):
    It is interesting that in the oath and covenant of the priesthood, the Lord uses the verbs obtain and receive. He does not use the verb ordain. It is in the temple that men and women—together—obtain and receive the blessings and power of both the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods. Having received these blessings in the house of the Lord, it is principally in their home life where they develop godly characteristics and attributes—sacrificing for and serving each other, loving each other with full fidelity, and being united in their love for each other and God.

    Perhaps obtain refers to the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthood ordinances that are part of the Temple endowment, while receive refers to the the Patriarchal priesthood sealing ordinance.

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