Last Sunday I was asked to teach Priesthood meeting. Since it was the celebration of the restoration of the Priesthood, and because there was a new member that would be receiving the priesthood soon, I decided to talk about the priesthood. Here is my talk/lesson:
The Priesthood (Doctrine and Covenants Sections 20, 84, 107)
The Aaronic Priesthood is restored:
“In Harmony, Pennsylvania, during the winter of 1828–29, Joseph Smith continued to work on the translation of the Book of Mormon, but the work progressed slowly. Not only did Joseph have to work on his farm to provide for his family, but he had no full-time scribe to assist him. In this time of need, he recalled, “I cried unto the Lord that he would provide for me to accomplish the work whereunto he had commanded me.” The Lord promised that He would provide the help Joseph Smith needed to continue the work of translation (see D&C 5:34). On April 5, 1829, a young schoolteacher named Oliver Cowdery accompanied the Prophet’s brother Samuel to Harmony to meet Joseph. Oliver had heard about the plates while staying in the home of the Prophet’s parents and, after praying about the matter, had received personal revelation that he was to write for the Prophet. On April 7, the two men began the work of translation, with Oliver as scribe.
“As Joseph and Oliver were translating from the plates, they read the Savior’s instructions to the Nephites regarding baptism for the remission of sins. On May 15, they went to a wooded area near the Prophet’s home to ask the Lord for more understanding about this important ordinance. “Our souls were drawn out in mighty prayer,” Oliver Cowdery recalled, “to know how we might obtain the blessings of baptism and of the Holy Spirit, according to the order of God, and we diligently sought for the right of the fathers and the authority of the holy priesthood, and the power to administer in the same.”
“Joseph Smith recorded what happened in answer to their prayer: “While we were thus employed, praying and calling upon the Lord, a messenger from heaven descended in a cloud of light, and having laid his hands upon us, he ordained us, saying: Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah, I confer the Priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; and this shall never be taken again from the earth until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness.
“He said this Aaronic Priesthood had not the power of laying on hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, but that this should be conferred on us hereafter. …
“The messenger who visited us on this occasion and conferred this Priesthood upon us, said that his name was John, the same that is called John the Baptist in the New Testament, and that he acted under the direction of Peter, James and John, who held the keys of the Priesthood of Melchizedek, which Priesthood, he said, would in due time be conferred on us” (Joseph Smith—History 1:68–70, 72). (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith)
The Melchizedek Priesthood is restored:
“After they received the Aaronic Priesthood and the ordinance of baptism, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery experienced blessings they had never known before. The Prophet recorded: “Our minds being now enlightened, we began to have the scriptures laid open to our understandings, and the true meaning and intention of their more mysterious passages revealed unto us in a manner which we never could attain to previously, nor ever before had thought of” (Joseph Smith—History 1:74). With this additional insight, they pressed forward in their work of translating the Book of Mormon. But the Prophet had not yet received an important blessing—one that was necessary before he could organize the Church, establish priesthood offices and quorums, and confer the gift of the Holy Ghost. He had to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood.
“As promised by John the Baptist, this blessing was given to Joseph and Oliver shortly after they received the Aaronic Priesthood. The ancient Apostles Peter, James, and John appeared to them in a secluded location near the Susquehanna River and conferred the Melchizedek Priesthood upon them. Joseph later declared that he heard “the voice of Peter, James, and John in the wilderness between Harmony, Susquehanna county, and Colesville, Broome county, on the Susquehanna river, declaring themselves as possessing the keys of the kingdom, and of the dispensation of the fullness of times!” (D&C 128:20). (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith)
What is the Priesthood?
“The priesthood 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.
“Male members of the Church may begin their priesthood service when they reach the age of 12. They begin by holding the Aaronic Priesthood, and they later may qualify to have the Melchizedek Priesthood conferred on them. At different stages in their lives and as they prepare themselves to receive different responsibilities, they hold different offices in the priesthood, such as deacon, teacher, or priest in the Aaronic Priesthood and elder or high priest in the Melchizedek Priesthood.
“For a male member of the Church to hold the priesthood, an authorized priesthood holder must confer it on him and ordain him to an office in that priesthood. Although the authority of the priesthood is bestowed only on worthy male members of the Church, the blessings of the priesthood are available to all—men, women, and children. We all benefit from the influence of righteous priesthood leadership, and we all have the privilege of receiving the saving ordinances of the priesthood.” (True to the Faith, (2004), 124–28)
The Priesthood is everlasting and has been held by prophets in every dispensation.
“There has been a chain of authority and power from Adam down to the present time. The Priesthood was first given to Adam; he obtained the First Presidency, and held the keys of it from generation to generation. He obtained it in the Creation, before the world was formed, as in Gen. 1:26-28. He had dominion given him over every living creature. He is Michael the Archangel, spoken of in the Scriptures. Then to Noah, who is Gabriel; he stands next in authority to Adam in the Priesthood; he was called of God to this office, and was the father of all living in his day, and to him was given the dominion. These men held keys first on earth, and then in heaven.
“The Priesthood is an everlasting principle, and existed with God from eternity, and will to eternity, without beginning of days or end of years. The keys have to be brought from heaven whenever the Gospel is sent. When they are revealed from heaven, it is by Adam’s authority.
“Daniel in his seventh chapter speaks of the Ancient of Days; he means the oldest man, our Father Adam, Michael; he will call his children together and hold a council with them to prepare them for the coming of the Son of Man [see Daniel 7:9–14]. He (Adam) is the father of the human family, and presides over the spirits of all men, and all that have had the keys must stand before him in this grand council. … The Son of Man stands before him, and there is given him glory and dominion. Adam delivers up his stewardship to Christ, that which was delivered to him as holding the keys of the universe, but retains his standing as head of the human family.
“This, then, is the nature of the Priesthood; every man holding the Presidency of his dispensation, and one man holding the Presidency of them all, even Adam; and Adam receiving his Presidency and authority from the Lord, but cannot receive a fullness until Christ shall present the Kingdom to the Father, which shall be at the end of the last dispensation.” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith)
There are two priesthoods: greater and lessor
“There are, in the church, two priesthoods, namely, the Melchizedek and Aaronic, including the Levitical Priesthood. Why the first is called the Melchizedek Priesthood is because Melchizedek was such a great high priest. Before his day it was called the Holy Priesthood, after the Order of the Son of God. But out of respect or reverence to the name of the Supreme Being, to avoid the too frequent repetition of his name, they, the church, in ancient days, called that priesthood after Melchizedek, or the Melchizedek Priesthood. All other authorities or offices in the church are appendages to this priesthood. But there are two divisions or grand heads—one is the Melchizedek Priesthood, and the other is the Aaronic or Levitical Priesthood. (D&C 107:1-6)
The greater or Melchizedek Priesthood
“The Melchizedek High Priesthood [is] no other than the Priesthood of the Son of God; … there are certain ordinances which belong to the Priesthood, from which flow certain results. … One great privilege of the Priesthood is to obtain revelations of the mind and will of God. It is also the privilege of the Melchizedek Priesthood to reprove, rebuke, and admonish, as well as to receive revelation.”
“All priesthood is Melchizedek; but there are different portions or degrees of it. … All the prophets had the Melchizedek Priesthood.” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith)
“And this greater priesthood administereth the gospel and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God. Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest. And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh; For without this no man can see the face of God, even the Father, and live.” (D&C 84:19-22)
“The office of an elder comes under the priesthood of Melchizedek. The Melchizedek Priesthood holds the right of presidency, and has power and authority over all the offices in the church in all ages of the world, to administer in spiritual things. The Presidency of the High Priesthood, after the order of Melchizedek, have a right to officiate in all the offices in the church. High priests after the order of the Melchizedek Priesthood have a right to officiate in their own standing, under the direction of the presidency, in administering spiritual things, and also in the office of an elder, priest (of the Levitical order), teacher, deacon, and member. An elder has a right to officiate in his stead when the high priest is not present. The high priest and elder are to administer in spiritual things, agreeable to the covenants and commandments of the church; and they have a right to officiate in all these offices of the church when there are no higher authorities present. (D&C 107:7-12)
“The power and authority of the higher, or Melchizedek Priesthood, is to hold the keys of all the spiritual blessings of the church—To have the privilege of receiving the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, to have the heavens opened unto them, to commune with the general assembly and church of the Firstborn, and to enjoy the communion and presence of God the Father, and Jesus the mediator of the new covenant.” (D&C 107:18-19)
The Lesser Priesthood or Aaronic Priesthood
“The second priesthood is called the Priesthood of Aaron, because it was conferred upon Aaron and his seed, throughout all their generations. Why it is called the lesser priesthood is because it is an appendage to the greater, or the Melchizedek Priesthood, and has power in administering outward ordinances. The bishopric is the presidency of this priesthood, and holds the keys or authority of the same.” (D&C 107:13-15)
“The power and authority of the lesser, or Aaronic Priesthood, is to hold the keys of the ministering of angels, and to administer in outward ordinances, the letter of the gospel, the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, agreeable to the covenants and commandments.” (D&C 107:20)
There are offices pertaining to the two different Priesthoods:
“Of necessity there are presidents, or presiding officers growing out of, or appointed of or from among those who are ordained to the several offices in these two priesthoods. Of the Melchizedek Priesthood, three Presiding High Priests, chosen by the body, appointed and ordained to that office, and upheld by the confidence, faith, and prayer of the church, form a quorum of the Presidency of the Church. The twelve traveling councilors are called to be the Twelve Apostles, or special witnesses of the name of Christ in all the world—thus differing from other officers in the church in the duties of their calling. And they form a quorum, equal in authority and power to the three presidents previously mentioned. The Seventy are also called to preach the gospel, and to be especial witnesses unto the Gentiles and in all the world—thus differing from other officers in the church in the duties of their calling. And they form a quorum, equal in authority to that of the Twelve special witnesses or Apostles just named. (D&C 107:21-26)
“Verily, I say unto you, saith the Lord of Hosts, there must needs be presiding elders to preside over those who are of the office of an elder; And also priests to preside over those who are of the office of a priest; And also teachers to preside over those who are of the office of a teacher, in like manner, and also the deacons—Wherefore, from deacon to teacher, and from teacher to priest, and from priest to elder, severally as they are appointed, according to the covenants and commandments of the church. Then comes the High Priesthood, which is the greatest of all. Wherefore, it must needs be that one be appointed of the High Priesthood to preside over the priesthood, and he shall be called President of the High Priesthood of the Church; Or, in other words, the Presiding High Priest over the High Priesthood of the Church. From the same comes the administering of ordinances and blessings upon the church, by the laying on of the hands. (D&C 107:60-67)
“And again, the duty of the President of the office of the High Priesthood is to preside over the whole church, and to be like unto Moses—Behold, here is wisdom; yea, to be a seer, a revelator, a translator, and a prophet, having all the gifts of God which he bestows upon the head of the church. (D&C 107:91-92)
“And again, the offices of elder and bishop are necessary appendages belonging unto the high priesthood. And again, the offices of teacher and deacon are necessary appendages belonging to the lesser priesthood, which priesthood was confirmed upon Aaron and his sons. (D&C 84: 29-30)
The duty of the elders, priests, teachers, deacons, and members of the church of Christ—An apostle is an elder, and it is his calling to baptize; And to ordain other elders, priests, teachers, and deacons; And to administer bread and wine—the emblems of the flesh and blood of Christ—And to confirm those who are baptized into the church, by the laying on of hands for the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, according to the scriptures; And to teach, expound, exhort, baptize, and watch over the church; And to confirm the church by the laying on of the hands, and the giving of the Holy Ghost; And to take the lead of all meetings. The elders are to conduct the meetings as they are led by the Holy Ghost, according to the commandments and revelations of God. The priest’s duty is to preach, teach, expound, exhort, and baptize, and administer the sacrament, And visit the house of each member, and exhort them to pray vocally and in secret and attend to all family duties. And he may also ordain other priests, teachers, and deacons. And he is to take the lead of meetings when there is no elder present; But when there is an elder present, he is only to preach, teach, expound, exhort, and baptize, And visit the house of each member, exhorting them to pray vocally and in secret and attend to all family duties. In all these duties the priest is to assist the elder if occasion requires. The teacher’s duty is to watch over the church always, and be with and strengthen them; And see that there is no iniquity in the church, neither hardness with each other, neither lying, backbiting, nor evil speaking; And see that the church meet together often, and also see that all the members do their duty. And he is to take the lead of meetings in the absence of the elder or priest— And is to be assisted always, in all his duties in the church, by the deacons, if occasion requires. But neither teachers nor deacons have authority to baptize, administer the sacrament, or lay on hands; They are, however, to warn, expound, exhort, and teach, and invite all to come unto Christ. Every elder, priest, teacher, or deacon is to be ordained according to the gifts and callings of God unto him; and he is to be ordained by the power of the Holy Ghost, which is in the one who ordains him. (D&C 20:38-60)
Eliza R. Snow reported: “[Joseph Smith gave] instructions respecting the different offices, and the necessity of every individual acting in the sphere allotted him or her, and filling the several offices to which they are appointed. He spoke of the disposition of many men to consider the lower offices in the Church dishonorable, and to look with jealous eyes upon the standing of others who are called to preside over them; that it was the folly and nonsense of the human heart for a person to be aspiring to other stations than those to which they are appointed of God for them to occupy; that it was better for individuals to magnify their respective callings. … Everyone should aspire only to magnify his own office and calling.” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith
The oath and covenant of the Priesthood
Every man receiving the Priesthood takes upon him a covenant between him and God:
“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. And also all they who receive this priesthood receive me, saith the Lord; For he that receiveth my servants receiveth me; And he that receiveth me receiveth my Father; And he that receiveth my Father receiveth my Father’s kingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him. And this is according to the oath and covenant which belongeth to the priesthood. Therefore, all those who receive the priesthood, receive this oath and covenant of my Father, which he cannot break, neither can it be moved. But whoso breaketh this covenant after he hath received it, and altogether turneth therefrom, shall not have forgiveness of sins in this world nor in the world to come. (D&C 84:33-41)
There is a correct way to use the Priesthood and make use of its power:
“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. Behold, ere he is aware, he is left unto himself, to kick against the pricks, to persecute the saints, and to fight against God. 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. No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy; That he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death. Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven. The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever. (D&C 121:34-46)
There is a continuous lineage of the Priesthood from the time of Adam
“And the sons of Moses, according to the Holy Priesthood which he received under the hand of his father-in-law, Jethro; And Jethro received it under the hand of Caleb; And Caleb received it under the hand of Elihu; And Elihu under the hand of Jeremy; And Jeremy under the hand of Gad; And Gad under the hand of Esaias; And Esaias received it under the hand of God. Esaias also lived in the days of Abraham, and was blessed of him, which Abraham received the priesthood from Melchizedek, who received it through the lineage of his fathers, even till Noah; And from Noah till Enoch, through the lineage of their fathers; And from Enoch to Abel, who was slain by the conspiracy of his brother, who received the priesthood by the commandments of God, by the hand of his father Adam, who was the first man—Which priesthood continueth in the church of God in all generations, and is without beginning of days or end of years. (D&C 84:6-17)
“From this account it appears that Lamech, the 9th from Adam, and the father of Noah, was 56 years old when Adam died; Methuselah, 243; Enoch, 308; Jared 470; Mahalaleel, 535; Cainan, 605; Enos, 695; and Seth, 800. So that Lamech, the father of Noah; Methuselah, Enoch, Jared, Mahalaleel, Cainan, Enos, Seth, and Adam, were all living at the same time, and beyond all controversy, were all preachers of righteousness.
“Agreeably to this account, Adam died in the 930th year of the world, Enoch was translated in the 987th, Seth died in the 1042nd, Enos in the 1140th, Cainan in the 1235th, Mahalaleel in the 1290th, Jared in the 1422nd, Lamech in the 1651st, and Methuselah in the 1656th, it being the same year in which the flood came.
“So that Noah was 84 years old when Enos died, 176 when Cainan died, 234 when Mahalaleel died, 366 when Jared died, 595 when Lamech died, and 600 when Methuselah died. We can see from this that Enos, Cainan, Mahalaleel, Jared, Methuselah, Lamach, and Noah all lived on the earth at the same time, And that Enos, Cainan, Mahalaleel, Jared, Methuselah, and Lamech, were all acquainted with both Adam and Noah.
“From the foregoing it is easily to be seen, not only how the knowledge of God came into the world, but upon what principle it was preserved: that from the time it was first communicated, it was retained in the minds of righteous men, who taught, not only their own posterity, but the world; so that there was no need of a new revelation to man, after Adam’s creation, to Noah, to give them the first idea, or notion of the existence of a God: and not only of a God, but of the true and living God.
“Nahor, Abraham’s brother, was 58 years old when Noah died, Terah 128, Serug 187, Reu 219, Eber 283, Salah 313, Arphaxed 344, and Shem 448. It appears from this account, that Nahor, brother of Abraham, Terah, Nahor, Serug, Reu, Peleg, Eber, Salah, Arphaxed, Shem, and Noah, all lived on the earth at the same time. And that Abraham was 18 years old when Reu died, 41 when Serug and his brother Nahor died, 75 when Terah died, 88 when Arphaxed died, 118 when Salah died, 150 when Shem died, and that Eber lived 4 years after Abraham’s death. And that Shem, Arphaxed, Salah, Eber, Reu, Serug, Terah, and Nahor, the brother of Abraham, and Abraham, lived at the same time. And that Nahor, brother of Abraham, Terah, Serug, Reu, Eber, Salah, Arphaxed, and Shem, were all acquainted with both Noah and Abraham.
“We have now traced the chronology of the world, agreeably to the account given in our present bible, from Adam to Abraham, and have clearly determined, beyond the power of controversy, that there was no difficulty in preserving the knowledge of God in the world, from the creation of Adam, and the manifestation made to his immediate descendants, as set forth in the former part of this lecture, so that the students, in this class need not have any dubiety resting on their minds, on this subject; for they can easily see, that it is impossible for it to be otherwise; but that the knowledge of the existence of a God, must have continued from father to son, as a matter of tradition, at least. For we cannot suppose, that a knowledge of this important fact, could have existed in the mind of any of the before mentioned individuals, without their having made it known to their posterity. (Lectures on Faith)
We learn the same thing from other sources! Many ancient manuscripts talk about the close connection all the patriarchs had with one another:
“And when Abram came out from the cave, he went to Noah and his son Shem, and he remained with them to learn the instruction of the Lord and his ways, and no man knew where Abram was, and Abram served Noah and Shem his son for a long time. And Abram was in Noah’s house thirty-nine years, and Abram knew the Lord from three years old, and he went in the ways of the Lord until the day of his death.
“And there was not a man found in those days in the whole earth, who knew the Lord (for they served each man his own God) except Noah and his household, and all those who were under his counsel knew the Lord in those days.” (The Book of Jasher 9:5-10)
Shem, or, as he is sometimes called, Melchizedek, the king of righteousness, priest of God Most High, and king of Jerusalem, came forth to meet him with bread and wine. And this high priest instructed Abraham in the laws of the priesthood and in the Torah, and to prove his friendship for him he blessed him, and called him the partner of God in the possession of the world, seeing that through him the Name of God had first been made known among men.” (Legends of the Jews 1:229-233)
In addition to the oral knowledge of God that was passed down from father to son, there were records kept—an actual book of history kept—from the time of Adam, containing the knowledge of God. This book was handed down for centuries to righteous men, who added their stories and genealogy to its wealth of knowledge. We know from the scriptures that the book was in the possession of both Enoch and Abraham:
And then began these men to call upon the name of the Lord, and the Lord blessed them; And a book of remembrance was kept, in the which was recorded, in the language of Adam, for it was given unto as many as called upon God to write by the spirit of inspiration; And by them their children were taught to read and write, having a language which was pure and undefiled. (Moses 6:4-6)
For a book of remembrance we have written among us, according to the pattern given by the finger of God; and it is given in our own language. And as Enoch spake forth the words of God, the people trembled, and could not stand in his presence. (Moses 6:46-47)
But I shall endeavor, hereafter, to delineate the chronology running back from myself to the beginning of the creation, for the records have come into my hands, which I hold unto this present time…
But the records of the fathers, even the patriarchs, concerning the right of Priesthood, the Lord my God preserved in mine own hands; therefore a knowledge of the beginning of the creation, and also of the planets, and of the stars, as they were made known unto the fathers, have I kept even unto this day, and I shall endeavor to write some of these things upon this record, for the benefit of my posterity that shall come after me. (Abraham 1:28, 31)
Other sources suggest this same book was still in existence and used by Solomon to gain his great wisdom and knowledge. If this is true, it is also possible that Moses used the Book of Adam as the source for his knowledge of the Creation, and used that information in his writing of the Torah (the first five books of the Bible)!
When added to the fact that the knowledge of God, could be passed down by word of mouth from Adam (for example, the knowledge of God came to Abraham directly from Noah and his son Shem, who in time would be called Mechizedek, King of Salem), it is clear that the ancient people had both oral and written records of the creation and a full and complete knowledge of the existence of God and His laws.
“Great wisdom was needed for building the ark, which was to have space for all beings on earth, even the spirits. Only the fishes did not have to be provided for. Noah acquired the necessary wisdom from the book given to Adam…in which all celestial and earthly knowledge is recorded.
“Noah took the book…before his death, he entrusted it to Shem, and he in turn to Abraham. From Abraham it descended through Jacob, Levi, Moses, and Joshua to Solomon, who learnt all his wisdom from it, and his skill in the healing art, and also his mastery over the demons.” (Legends of the Jews 1:154-156)
The greater, Melchizedek Priesthood was taken from Israel when they rebelled against God. They continued with the lesser, Aaronic Priesthood, until Jesus Christ.
And the Lord confirmed a priesthood also upon Aaron and his seed, throughout all their generations, which priesthood also continueth and abideth forever with the priesthood which is after the holiest order of God. 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 fullness of his glory. Therefore, he took Moses out of their midst, and the Holy Priesthood also; And the lesser priesthood continued, which priesthood holdeth the key of the ministering of angels and the preparatory gospel; Which gospel is the gospel of repentance and of baptism, and the remission of sins, and the law of carnal commandments, which the Lord in his wrath caused to continue with the house of Aaron among the children of Israel until John, whom God raised up, being filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother’s womb. (D&C 84:18-27 )
And the Lord said unto Moses, Hew thee two other tables of stone, like unto the first, and I will write upon them also, the words of the Law, according as they were written at the first on the tables which thou brakest; but it shall not be according to the first, for I will take away the priesthood out of their midst; therefore my holy order, and the ordinances thereof, shall not go before them; for my presence shall not go up in their midst, lest I destroy them. But I will give unto them the law as at the first, but it shall be after the law of a carnal commandment; for I have sworn in my wrath, that they shall not enter into my presence, into my rest, in the days of their pilgrimage. Therefore, do as I have commanded thee, and be ready in the morning unto the mount Sinai. (Exodus 34:1-2 JST)
The differences between the two priesthoods can be seen through the ordinances that each can perform. For example, a Priest holding the Aaronic Priesthood can perform the ordinance of Baptism, but cannot give the Gift of the Holy Ghost. Only someone with the Mechizedek Priesthood has the authority and power to bestow the Holy Ghost on a person.
Those previously baptized by John had not yet received the Holy Ghost:
“Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. (Acts 8:14-17)
Every Priesthood holder should know his priesthood lineage and keep it with him.
For example, the following is the Priesthood Lineage of Kevan Clawson:
Kevan K. Clawson was ordained a High Priest on November 16, 1986 by Kent L. Meyers.
Kent L. Meyers was ordained a High Priest July 2, 1970 by Sterling W. Sill.
Stirling W. Sill was set apart as an Assistant to the Council of the Twelve Apostles April 9, 1954 by David O. McKay.
David O. McKay was ordained an Apostle April 9, 1906 by Joseph F. Smith.
Joseph F. Smith was ordained an Apostle February 14, 1866 by Brigham Young.
Brigham Young was ordained an Apostle February 14, 1835 under the hands of the Three Witnesses (Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris).
The Three Witnesses were called by revelation to choose the Twelve Apostles and on February 14, 1835 were “Blessed by the laying on of the hands of the Presidency” (Joseph Smith, Jr., Sidney Rigdon, and Frederick G. Williams), to ordain the Twelve Apostles. (History of the Church Vol 2, pg. 187).
Joseph Smith, Jr., and Oliver Cowdery received the Melchizedek Priesthood in May of 1829 under the hands of Peter, James, and John.
Peter, James, and John were ordained Apostles by the Lord Jesus Christ (John 15:16)