I've been interested lately to learn more about the Priesthood "keys". The Priesthood, according to the Index on the church website, is "the eternal power and authority of God. Through the priesthood God created and governs the heavens and the earth. Through this power He redeems and exalts His children, bringing to pass "the immortality and eternal life of man" (Moses 1:39). God gives priesthood authority to worthy male members of the Church so they can act in His name for the salvation of His children. Priesthood holders can be authorized to preach the gospel, administer the ordinances of salvation, and govern the kingdom of God on the earth." The church website gave this definition of Priesthood keys:
"The exercise of priesthood authority in the Church is governed by those who hold priesthood keys (see D&C 65:2; 124:123). Those who hold priesthood keys have the right to preside over and direct the Church within a jurisdiction. For example, a bishop holds priesthood keys that enable him to preside in his ward. Therefore, when a child in that ward is prepared to be baptized, the person baptizing the child must receive authorization from the bishop.
Jesus Christ holds all the keys of the priesthood. He has given His Apostles the keys that are necessary for governing His Church. Only the senior Apostle, the President of the Church, may use (or authorize another person to use) these keys for governing the entire Church (see D&C 43:1–4; 81:2; 132:7).
The President of the Church delegates priesthood keys to other priesthood leaders so they can preside in their areas of responsibility. Priesthood keys are bestowed on presidents of temples, missions, stakes, and districts; bishops; branch presidents; and quorum presidents. A person who serves in one of these positions holds the keys only until he is released. Counselors do not receive keys, but they do receive authority and responsibility by calling and assignment."
From the scriptures we can learn more about which keys are held by certain prophets throughout time. Here are some of the ones that I have learned about through reading the scriptures:
Moses held the keys of the gathering of Israel. In simple terms, those are the keys to oversee missionary work that gathers scattered Israel back in to the fold. Moses bestowed those keys upon Joseph Smith in the Kirtland temple on April 3, 1836.
Moroni held the keys of the Book of Mormon. It is through him that Joseph Smith received the gold plates and was given permission to translate them.
Elias held the keys "of bringing to pass the restoration of all things spoken by the mouth of all the holy prophets since the world began, concerning the last days;" (Doctrine and Covenants 27:6 Elias also appeared to Joseph Smith in 1836 and committed the keys to him. This is an event that the Jews still await.
Elijah held the keys of the "sealing power" that whatever he bound on Earth would be bound in Heaven. He also visited Joseph Smith and committed those keys to him as part of the restoration of the Gospel in these latter days.
JOHN THE BAPTIST
John held the keys of the Aaronic, or lesser Priesthood. He conferred those keys upon Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery and commanded them to baptize each other. They then had the authority to baptize in the church, to administer the sacramaent, and to pass that authority on to others.
PETER, JAMES, AND JOHN
These apostles held the keys of the Melchizedek Priesthood, which they also conferred upon Joseph Smith. He then had the authority to confer that Priesthood on others, as well as perform the duties of that Priesthood.
We are blessed to live in a time when the "restitution of all things" has happened, and all of the Priesthood keys are once again available to men. As members in the church, we have many blessings of the Priesthood available to us, including the following:
--Blessings from the Priesthood if we are ill
--The administration of the sacrament
--The conferring of the gift of the Holy Ghost
--Temple ordinances including baptism for the dead, and eternal marriage.
These are but a few of the blessings we receive from the Priesthood. I'm thankful to live in a day when all of the Priesthood keys have been available once again to man. I'm thankful that the church of Jesus Christ has been restored to Earth in it's fulness.