The only keys mentioned in the Book of Mormon are the keys Zoram used to open the treasury containing the brass plates (1 Nephi 4:20).
Fact: The Book of Mormon DOES NOT MENTION priesthood keys at all.
Reading the Fine Print
Are priesthood keys fungible? Are they exchangeable, replaceable, interchangeable?
Or are keys fashioned for the holder, custom-crafted, unique, specific, and non-transferable?
I mean, when Peter conferred authority on Joseph Smith, did Peter lose his own keys? Or are there an infinite set of keys to pass around?
What did the Lord mean when He said:
The keys which I have given unto [Jospeh], and also to youward, shall not be taken from him till I come.
How about Joseph: could he pass along his keys or not? Was he able to go to Home Depot and make a duplicate set of keys to give to a neighbor in case of emergency?
Well, let's double-check. The Lord said to Joseph in 1833:
Verily I say unto you, the keys of this kingdom shall never be taken from you, while thou art in the world, neither in the world to come;
Ummm. Well, that was in 1833. What about before, when Joseph was still on probation? What was the Lord's "exit" strategy, then?
I have given unto [Joseph] the keys of the mystery of those things which have been sealed, even things which were from the foundation of the world, and the things which shall come from this time until the time of my coming, if he abide in me, and if not, another will I plant in his stead.
Ah, so keys can be lost.
A skeleton key can open any lock. As Isaiah prophesied:
And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; so he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open.
And I will fasten him as a nail in a sure place; and he shall be for a glorious throne to his father’s house.
What is a key but a nail with teeth? It can open heaven or shut hell. It can open hell and shut heaven. Jesus said He holds "the keys of hell and death" (Revelation 1:18).
So why do we take such pride in our "keys" when they belong to Him? Why do we boast of our priesthood "authority" when we are but temporary custodians of what belongs to Christ?
And when He returns, won't all priesthood keys be returned to Him who is theKey of Heaven?
Well, it looks like I was wrong. We can lose keys, but God cannot. He never loses anything (see, John 6:39).
[THEM ARE SOME BIG KEYS: Official Emblem of the Papacy of the Roman Catholic Church]
What About Church Authority?
If keys are transferable and irrevocable, then the Catholic Church still has them, right? After all, Jesus said to Peter:
I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven.
The Catholic Church claims an unbroken line of authority back to Peter. (Sound familiar?)
But can priesthood authority remain intact over hundreds of years?
Let's look at what the Lord said:
The keys of the kingdom of God are committed unto man on the earth [NOTE: when Peter received them], and from thence shall the gospel roll forth unto the ends of the earth [NOTE: It has since 34 A.D., or whenever Cornelius was baptized], as the stone which is cut out of the mountain without hands [NOTE: so not by man] shall roll forth, until it has filled the whole earth.
And let's not forget, Christ's kingdom is "not of this world."
My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight.
So it seems like the "keys to the kingdom of heaven" that Christ is referring to must be something different than the Church organization -- which is very much "of this world."
What Do We Do With Keys?
So what exactly did Peter's keys entitle him to do?
Become a pope? Run a multi-national religious organization with thousands of cathedrals and tens of thousands employees, with billions of dollars to bankroll the cares of this world, buy insurance and retain armies of lawyers to settle abuse claims?
. . . or were his keys intended to help him condescend and to become the servant of all, like Christ?