Imagine if priesthood "keys" were not used as instruments of authority but of love...
Imagine if priesthood keys were used to unlock the windows of heaven for all of us...
Imagine if priesthood keys were used to create equality among us rather than status...
Imagine if priesthood keys were used to reveal the mysteries of God rather than to manage the membership... Recap
1. Priesthood keys are not literal; neither are they unilateral. They are figurative and reciprocal. They represent the rights, privileges, and powers that God grants to his children to do His work.
2. Because God commanded "all things shall be done by common consent in the church" (D&C 26:2), the primary function of priesthood keys is to make us equal (or one) by living common consent.
3. Instead of using keys to make us equal, priesthood keys have been leveraged to establish a hierarchy, whose fruit has been authoritarianism and priestcraft.
4. As a reality-check, priesthood keys ARE NOT EVEN MENTIONED in the Book of Mormon, the "most correct book" on earth. Ironically, the only person who "held keys" in the Book of Mormon was wicked Laban, who safeguarded "the keys of the treasury" (1 Nephi 4:20).
5. Christ holds all the keys (rights, privileges and powers) of His Father. As Isaiah put it:
I will commit thy government into his hand: [so we have one King of Kings] and he shall be a father [not a "president"] to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Judah.
And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; [so all keys belong to Christ] 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.
6. The Lord conferred on Peter the "keys of the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 16:19); and the "kingdom of heaven" is not of this world. Suppose these "keys" had nothing to do with being the boss of an earthly institution, or church (since the believers have always belonged to Christ)?
7. The "keys of the church," in any event, have been bestowed on all of us (see, D&C 42:18-69: "Unto you the kingdom, or in other words, the keys of the Church have been given").
8. But if we want to have a "my-keys-are-bigger-than-your-keys" contest, then Joseph Smith wins, whose rights are preeminent in this dispensation. The Lord said, "The keys which I have given unto him . . . shall not be taken from him till I come" (D&C 112:15).
9. But since Joseph Smith is no longer with us, how are we supposed to be governed? By common consent! The Church is supposed to be led by the gift and power of the Holy Ghost, which all of its members possess.
10. The sign of priesthood keys is condescension. Beware those that exercise authority by virtue of their "keys."
11. Joseph Smith bestowed priesthood keys on women, including the keys of presidency. (See, Nauvoo Relief Society Minute Book, discussed in detail in Part 5 of this Series.) We have not yet begun to realize the vision Joseph had for the Church as he walked us back towards Eden.
Uncle Joseph Wants YOU
What if we haven't achieved Zion because we have not taken seriously the keys of common consent; and in fact, have focused exclusively on the keys of presidency at the expense of common consent?
What if Joseph's vision for the church has stalled because we've been too busy building the Great and Spacious Church?
I wonder if Paul's warning applies to us:
They became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man. . .
Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts. . .
Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator.
(Romans 1:21, 23-25)
Have we made "keys" into an idol, worshipping those that hold them, claiming they can never lead us astray (as through the creature were greater than God)?
Have we been seduced by our own vain and lustful desires, allowing the Church to seek for power, wealth, and the praise of the world?
Have we mocked God and taken His name in vain by invoking His "keys" as a means to control his children and to accumulate the riches of this world by placing grievous burdens on the poor?
Have we dishonored His daughters by exercising institutional unrighteous dominion?
Shall we go on breaking the hearts of our tender wives, and losing the confidence of our children, because of our bad examples in usurping the government of God that should have been perfected by common consent?
I love Philip Barlow. He held the Leonard J. Arrington Chair of Mormon Studies at Utah State University before being appointed the associate director of the Neal A. Maxwell Institute at BYU.
Some of the things he has written about the Restoration have been eye opening. According to Barlow, Joseph was not trying to restore a "New Testament" church (that was Alexander Campbell's project). Instead, Joseph was trying to "mend a fractured reality."
Joseph's "doctrines, policies, priesthoods, keys, revelations, ordinances, and actions were not ends in themselves. They were ultimately in service of 'restoring' proper relations and order in time and eternity. That jaw-dropping scope exceeds Smith's commonly understood attempt to restore the primitive Christian church. His intent was restore to wholeness a fractured reality. Smith saw, for instance, a chasm in traditional Christianity's perception of the relation of spiritual to the temporal and of the spiritual to the physical--chasms he worked to bridge. His efforts included the healing of fractured "time," of broken language, and of the earth's sundered geology. Smith diagnosed a breach in the meaning and nature of 'family' and generational memory and attachments . . . . Yet Smith went further, finding broken or incomplete virtually every essential dimension of how humans related to one another: their rudderless sectarian religion, their baseless sources of authority, their social classes which no longer cohered, and their politics and economies. Smith was moved to respond creatively to his environment; the result was something new."
(Excerpts from Philip L. Barlow's preface to Mormons and the Bible (2013 edition), accessed at https://sunstonemagazine.com/a-joseph-smith-too-small-2)
Like Joseph Smith, God can inspire us to create "something new" in the 21st century.
God's keys are not to lock us into a past tradition; they are to open the windows of heaven and bring us new truths, new ways of understanding our place in history and future destiny.
For I deign to reveal unto my church things which have been kept hid from before the foundation of the world, things that pertain to the dispensation of the fulness of times.