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“When Jesus came into the coasts of Cæsarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?
And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.
He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?
And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.
And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:13-19)

The scriptures recount the Lord’s promise to Simon Peter regarding the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Keys represent a significant item not only in the current LDS Church but also in the Catholic Church. I was reminded of this fact in a recent trip to Rome. An easy way to recognize a statue or painting of Peter, the apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, is to look for keys in his hand.

For example, in this statue located in Saint Peter’s Basilica, we see Peter holding the keys in his left hand. I have included an inset of a closeup of the keys.

The Apostle Peter holding the keys of the kingdom of God

The keys of the kingdom also adorn other aspects of Catholic life. The coat of arms of the Pope has, for centuries, included the keys. This view, also from St. Peter’s Basilica,  shows the coat of arms of Pope Leo X who was instrumental in the construction of the basilica.

Papal Coat of Arms

Today, the coat of arms of Pope Benedict XVI, continues the tradition. One gold key representing the power in heaven and one silver key representing the power on earth. These two keys are linked by the papal cord signifying the connection between the actions on earth and heaven.

Coat of Arms of Pope Benedict XVI

Even the floor of the entry to Saint Peter’s Basilica is decorated with the keys.

Entry way floor of the Basilica of Saint Peter

The message is clear. Peter received the keys from Jesus Christ and the Pope still retains them today. Catholicism contends that there has been an unbroken chain of authority from Peter, the first ‘bishop’ of Rome through to the current Pope. As early as Bishop Clement in A.D. 88, the Catholics demonstrate that the bishop of Rome held sway over the church through his letter of correction to the Church in Corinth.

While there is no solid proof that the power vested in Peter by the Lord Jesus Christ was transferred to the subsequent bishops of Rome, this transfer is inherent in the position occupied by Peter and those that followed him in the Holy Roman See. Such is the Catholic contention. A defense of the Catholic position is found in the this letter by Art Kelly.

Did Peter, as an apostle, transfer the keys of the kingdom of God to the titular bishop of Rome? Did the Lord no longer need the apostles that represented personal witnesses of His resurrection? Did the less than Christ-like demeanor of some of the popes negate whatever power and authority that was given to them by God?

Now, shift forward a few centuries. The restoration of the fulness of the gospel and the keys of priesthood authority contend that the keys given to Peter were lost. Without the organization as constituted by the Lord Jesus Christ, the church was left to the wiles of men who used it to gain power and wealth. The restoration of the organization of the original church with it’s twelve apostles and the ordination of Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdrey to the higher priesthood represent that these powers to seal on earth and in heaven are again upon the earth. Elder Bateman expressed the following support in October 2003 general conference:

“The priesthood is the power and authority of God delegated to man. Priesthood keys are the right to direct the use of that power. The President of the Church holds the keys necessary for governing the entire Church. His counselors in the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles also hold the keys of the kingdom and operate under the President’s direction.”

These keys are passed on by ordination from generation to generation. But, does the simple passage of these keys through the laying on of hands constitute the only condition by which the keys of the priesthood can be exercised? In Doctrine and Covenants, section 121, further conditions are identified relative to the conduct of a bearer of the priesthood:

“Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen.  And why are they not chosen?

Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson—

That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.

That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.” D&C 121:34-37

As the scripture states, the rights or keys of the priesthood can only be exercised when the principles of righteousness are present. Any degree of unrighteous control or compulsion can negate a leaders authority. This admonition is not restricted to any class or position.

But what constitutes ‘unrighteous control?’ In earlier times during the Spanish Inquisition, Jews who would not renounce their belief and join the Holy Roman Church were drug through the streets by their feet or hanged. I would say that is a clear case.

Would the excommunication of a person because they promote the belief in a heavenly mother  constitute unrighteous dominion? Where does striving for the purity of the faith cross over into unrighteousness?

Were the keys of the priesthood lost in the earlier dispensation? Can the keys of the priesthood be lost in this dispensation? The Lord tells us that:

“We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.
Hence many are called, but few are chosen.” D&C 121:39-40

What is the definition of ‘almost all men?’ How easy is it ‘to cover our sins, to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion’ on others from a position of authority?

Does it gratify our pride when we accept accommodations in a multi-million dollar penthouse suite? Or a car and driver? Or an unlimited expense account?

Do we contribute to the problem when we extend adulation and bestow public honors upon those Christ called to ‘minister unto us and to be our servants?’ (See 3 Nephi 12:1)

What think ye?

5 Responses to “Peter the Apostle and the Keys of the Kingdom”

  • Cub:

    I have thought a lot about similarities between the Catholic church and the LDS church. Those born into either faith are taught that they are part of the one true religion, both religions lay claim to the priesthood, and both religions teach strong reliance on leadership (i.e., papal infalliability/prophet won’t lead church astray). I think it is difficult for those born into either religion to step back be willing to search for truth, regardless of the consequences.

    As a Mormon, I’ve always thought that I knew the church was true because I have had spiritual experiences in church. It wasn’t until recently that I realized and understood that other people have spiritual experiences in their church meetings as well. A couple of years ago I had a spiritual experience in a mass. Does that mean the Catholic church is true? I have realized that feeling the truth of a principle (i.e., the bible is God’s word, the Book of Mormon is true, Joseph restored the gospel) does not necessarily mean that other related principles are also true. The line of reasoning that I have been taught in church goes something like this: If you felt the spirit when you read the Book of Mormon, you therefore know that Joseph was a prophet, and if he was a prophet, we have a modern prophet today and you should basically accept everything that goes on in the institution of the church as divine. That reasoning seems crazy to me now.

    I do not know the state of the keys of the priesthood in the LDS church, but I believe that the prophet and other leaders are men who can make mistakes. They can make the mistakes warned about in the D&C. I’ve heard much of what feels like false doctrine taught by leaders with various positions in church hierarchy. I have been bothered by how we treat the general authorities like celebrities. I do not entirely blame the leaders. I believe that most of them are good men doing their best. I think that the church and its leadership are involved in a collusion that is difficult for anyone involved to break free from without becoming bitter.

    Here’s the collusion I see between the church and the leadership. The members of the church want to have infallible leaders. It’s seems somewhat like the children of Israel wanting a king. Plus, if our leaders will not lead us astray, everything becomes easier. We just trust them (the arm of the flesh, I might add), and we’ll be okay. Yeah, we need a personal relationship with Christ, but that relationship will just confirm everything taught by our leaders. Or will it? Anyways, back to the collusion. If you are called to a leadership position where you are revered in the manner that we treat our general authorities, imagine the pressure! I saw this first hand when my mission president was called as a general authority while I was serving close to him. He said he worried every time a missionary would mention the great promises made by another GA–he didn’t like the pressure of having his words taken as doctrine.

    No wonder general conference seems so bland–if you knew that your words would be reviewed and revered as doctrine for generations, you’d be very careful what you say. So, the church likes the comfort of following leaders who won’t lead them astray, and I have to think that some leaders enjoy the status that accompanies the position.

    One thing I know for sure–wondering whether my leaders are leading me in the right directions has left me with no one to turn to but Jesus. In the end, as long as my relationship with Him is in the right place, I know I’ll be led in the right direction whether I follow church leaders or not.

  • Cub,
    I couldn’t have express my thoughts any better than what you have added here. I have also come to realize that gaining a testimony of the Book of Mormon does not automagically make everything else true. Perhaps it should mean that we need to study the scriptures even more, that we should understand why the fulness of the gospel is an important concept. We, humans, like water, tend to follow the path of least resistance. When we have leaders telling us that the church is in wonderful condition, we don’t feel pressed to improve our individual or collective spirituality. That is sad.

    We should follow the example of Alma who, even after being born again ‘fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself.’ (Alma 5:46)

    We need to know veracity of things that are presented to us as truth; God has promised that He would make them manifest unto us by His Holy Ghost. I don’t think Alma accepted any of the prevailing wisdom of his time without seeking to know for himself. We shouldn’t either.

    Thanks again for your thoughts.
    Spek

  • landofthelongday:

    this maybe slightly left field but i think worth a thought. in the gospel of thomas [nag hammadi]
    12. The disciples said to Jesus, “We know that you are going to leave us. Who will be our leader?”
    Jesus said to them, “No matter where you are you are to go to James the Just, for whose sake heaven and earth came into being.”

    startling and compelling evidence is coming forth via dead sea scrolls, nag hammadi, pre nicene council christian historical writings – josephus, philo, pliney, eusibeus, etc revealing the possibility that james the brother of jesus was in actual fact the leader of christianity at jesus’ death.
    this according to robert eisenman james the brother of jesus
    of course i’m not believing all he says but this arguement is pretty sound which demands a rereading of the new testament…another interesting claim is that Paul isn’t who he portrays himself to be but but someone who is prepared to make compromises.
    if this is in fact true we could have a whole new playing field that will not only turn christianity upside down but also questions regarding restoration…maybe it was james peter and john who visited joseph and oliver

  • land,

    Your comment reminded me of an instance from the scriptures.

    You may recall the dispute that Paul and Barnabus took to the apostles regarding the need for the Gentiles to keep the law of Moses. Peter spoke in Acts 15:7-23 on the topic, but it was James who had the last word and prompted the action of writing the decision.

    So… will the real leader of the apostles please step forward?

  • landofthelongday:

    spek

    the dispute between the apostles and paul as you point out clearly does indicate james having the last say…especially since it was over an issue as serious as keeping the law of moses
    stephen prior to his shameful death, in his final testimony said something astonishing in regard to the law of moses that they professed to:

    Acts 7: 37 ¶ This is that Moses, which said unto the children of Israel, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear.
    38 This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us:

    “””39 To whom our fathers would not obey,””””

    “””but thrust him from them,”””

    “””and in their hearts turned back again into Egypt,”””

    stephen accuses them that they booted moses out…he didn’t hang around for 40 yrs.
    talk about boldness

    Jeremiah 7:21 indicates

    21 ¶ Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Put your burnt offerings unto your sacrifices, and eat flesh.

    “””””22 For I spake not unto your fathers””””””,

    “””””nor commanded them””””””

    in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt,

    “””””concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices:””””””

    basically jeremiah says that when moses got chucked out of the camp they just made a whole bunch of stuff up and passed it off as the law of moses or in others words corrupted it. (sound familiar?)

    but here is the true law of moses in the next verse

    23 But this thing commanded I them, saying, Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people: and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you.

    the law of love
    love god and your neighbour
    thats what moses got from sina
    not all those burnt offerings etc
    Aaron polluted the mosiac law

    herein lies the dilemma facing the apostles who were actually promoting the true law of moses as restored by christ himself…the law of love, the law of the kingdom
    “…i come not to destroy but to fulfil the law…”

    hebrew fulfil

    6213 `asah
    – advance,
    – bring forth,
    – fulfill,
    – maintain,
    – perform,
    – shew,
    – use.

    greek fulfil

    4137. pleroo
    – accomplish,
    – complete,
    – end,
    – expire,
    – fulfil,

    maybe paul was thinking greek…i have a sneaky feeling the lord was thinking hebrew

    paul was on his “grace” buzz so away with the law of moses

    so now in addition to your question is another…will the real law of moses step forward?

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