Friday, March 18, 2011

New Testament Lesson #13 "I Will Give unto Thee the Keys of the Kingdom"

Matthew 15:21-17:9


"Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon ["gentile territory," (Harper-Collins Study Bible)].

"And behold, a woman of Canaan ["a scriptural term for ancient Israel's pagan enemies," (Harper-Collins); "The gospel-historians make clear the fact that this woman was of pagan or heathen birth; and we know that among the peoples so classed the Canaanites were held in particular disrepute by the Jews." (Talmadge, p. 354)] came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord ["a respectful address by an inferior to a superior...It hints at Jesus' divinity," (Harper-Collins)] thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. [Though a gentile, this Canaanitish woman believed in the ancient prophets, recognized the Jews as the chosen race, and accepted Jesus as the promised Messiah" (McConkie, p. 370).]

"But he answered her not a word.  And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us.

"But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.  Then came she and worshipped him [translated as "knelt before him" in New International Version and others], saying, Lord, help me.

"But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs.  ["The rabbis often spoke of the gentiles as dogs" (Dummelow, p. 678). "There are two Greek words for 'dog:' kuon, scavenging hounds that roam the streets in packs, and kunarion, small dogs kept as house pets." (Stern, p. 53).  This is the only story in the New Testament which refers to the pet dog.]

"And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table.  Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt.  And her daughter was made whole from that very hour" (Matt. 15:21-28).

Perhaps in more than one way, the non-Jew believers were like "pet dogs," following the Savior and accepting what was given to them, rather than demanding more as did the "children."  When he healed their "great multitudes," "they glorified the God of Israel" (Matt. 15:29-31). They did not accost Jesus and demand that he be their political leader after he fed them bread miraculously, as did the "children," the Israelites.  The believing Gentiles accepted what he gave them.  And most of all, they were not offended by his claims to divine authority and godhood.  "The implication is that these gentile peoples who hitherto had served other gods, now saw in the Son of David the divinity which caused them to forsake their own national deities and turn unto the true Lord" (McConkie, p. 372).


After this, Jesus returned to Magdala.  "The unknown; it may be...on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee" (Harper-Collins).  The Pharisees and Sadducees came and asked him for a sign from heaven.  Jesus replied that there were signs all around them, just as clear as the weather predictions they could easily make by the color of the sky.  Then he counseled his disciples to "beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees" (Matt. 16:1-6).  Leaven in ancient times came simply from the spores in the air; the bread dough was left sitting for a few days, the spores permeated the dough from the surrounding environment, and the bread was thus leavened.  In similar fashion, the disciples were in danger of the devilish doctrine of the Jewish leadership entering into their beliefs, because it was all around them in their environment.


When Jesus asked the disciples who men said he was, they gave various answers.  But when he asked, "Whom say ye that I am?...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" (Matt. 16:13-18).  Since Simon had received a testimony of Christ through personal revelation, Jesus renamed him Peter.  "Peter, from the Greek word petros for 'rock' or 'stone,' thus a symbolic nickname" (Harper-Collins).  This was a constant reminder to Peter, the future leader of the Church, of the rock of revelation upon which Christ would build his church. (See Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 274.) 


Bring the following four items:

A message written in code.
A color-by-number page.
A box, padlock, diary, etc with a lock.
A quiz (math, music, history, whatever).

Give each of the items to a different student and ask them to translate, color, open, or answer correctly in 1 minute.

Review their progress and ask what might give them a better chance of success.  A key, of course.  Show the appropriate key for each thing:  For the message, a code key; for the art, a color key; for the lock, a metal key; for the quiz, the answer key.


Christ promised to give Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 16:19), and those keys were transfered to Peter, James and John on the Mount of Transfiguration by Moses and Elias (Matt. 17:1-9).

"The Prophet Joseph Smith said, 'I will give you a key that will never rust; if you will stay with the majority of the Twelve Apostles, and the records of the Church, you will never be led astray.'

"These spiritual keys hold 'the right to enjoy the blessing of communication with the heavens, and the privilege and authority to administer in the ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ, to preach the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins' (Joseph F. Smith, p. 142).  Keys of the ministering of angels are the right of the Aaronic Priesthood. (See D&C 13). The higher Melchizedek Priesthood 'holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God' (D&C 84:19).  To be efficacious and valid, every act in the Church must be performed under the authority of the keys at the appropriate time and place, and in the proper manner and order. The authority and power to direct all of the labors of the kingdom of God on earth constitute the keys of the priesthood. Those who possess them have the right to preside over and direct the affairs of the Church in their jurisdiction" (James E. Faust, "The Keys That Never Rust," Oct. 1994 General Conference).

"On April 3, 1836, in the Kirtland Temple, the same heavenly beings that appeared to the Savior and his three Apostles on the Mount, appeared and conferred additional priesthood authority and keys upon the Prophet Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery for the building up of the Church preparatory to the coming of Christ to rule and reign on the earth forever. Moses appeared and conferred the keys of the gathering of Israel. Elias restored the covenants and authority given to Abraham. Elijah bestowed the keys and power of turning the hearts of the fathers to the children and of the children to their fathers." (See D&C 110:11–16.) (David B. Haight, "The Keys of the Kingdom," Oct. 1980 General Conference.)

"All the keys of the kingdom‍ of God on earth are held by members of the First Presidency and members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.  The President of the Church—the senior Apostle—presides over the entire Church and is the only person on earth who exercises all the keys in their fulness.  He delegates authority by conferring or authorizing the conferral of keys upon other bearers of the priesthood in their specific offices and callings" (Russell M. Nelson, "Keys of the Priesthood," Liahona, Oct. 2005, p. 26).

THE SYMBOLISM IN KEYS has 32 definitions for "key," and some of those are subdivided, making for an amazing total of 38 definitions for the word "key!"  The very last definition is the one we typically think of when talking about priesthood keys, but we can look at the priesthood keys in many different ways if we relate them to the other definitions.

Print up and pass out some or all of the definitions among class members and ask each to explain how the particular key in their definition could be symbolic of the keys of the priesthood.  Give them a minute to think about it, and then let them answer in any order.  They may surprise you with some really creative ideas.  They may not be able to find a link to the priesthood for all of the definitions, but then again, they may...

You can print up and post small copies of the photos as the definitions are being given if you like.

1. a small metal instrument specially cut to fit into a lock and move its bolt.
2. any of various devices resembling or functioning as a key: the key of a clock.

3. electronic key card.

4. something that affords a means of access: the key to happiness.

5. something that secures or controls entrance to a place: Gibraltar is the key to the Mediterranean.

6. something that affords a means of clarifying a problem.

7. a book, pamphlet, or other text containing the solutions or translations of material given elsewhere, as testing exercises.

8. a systematic explanation of abbreviations, symbols, etc., used in a dictionary, map, etc.: pronunciation key.

9. the system, method, pattern, etc., used to decode or decipher a cryptogram, as a code book, machine setting, or key word.

10. one of a set of marked parts, designated areas, or levers pressed in operating a typewriter, computer terminal, calculator, etc.

11. a manually operated lever for opening and closing an electric circuit, used to produce signals in telegraphy.

12. Music .
a. (in a keyboard instrument) one of the levers that when depressed by the performer sets in motion the playing mechanism.

b. (on a woodwind instrument) a metal lever that opens and closes a vent.

c. the relationship perceived between all tones in a given unit of music and a single tone or a keynote; tonality.
d. the principal tonality of a composition: a symphony in the key of C minor.
e. the keynote or tonic of a scale.
13. tone or pitch, as of voice: to speak in a high key.

14. mood or characteristic style, as of expression or thought: He writes in a melancholy key.

15. degree of intensity, as of feeling or action.

16. a pin, bolt, wedge, or other piece inserted in a hole or space to lock or hold parts of a mechanism or structure together; a cotter.
17. a small piece of steel fitting into matching slots of a hub of a wheel or the like and the shaft on which the wheel is mounted so that torque is transmitted from one to the other.

18. a contrivance for grasping and turning a bolt, nut, etc.

19. Computers. a field or group of characters within a record that identifies the record, establishing its position among sorted records, and/or provides information about its contents.

20. (in a series of advertisements or announcements soliciting replies) a unique code inserted for each medium used, to determine the relative effectiveness of the media.

21. Electricity.
a. a device for opening and closing electrical contacts.
b. a hand-operated switching device ordinarily formed of concealed spring contacts with an exposed handle or push button, capable of switching one or more parts of a circuit.

22. Biology. a systematic tabular classification of the significant characteristics of the members of a group of organisms to facilitate identification and comparison.

23. Masonry. a keystone.

24. Architecture. (in a ribbed vault) a stone, as a boss, at the intersection of two or more ribs.

25. Masonry, Carpentry. a wedge, as for tightening a joint or splitting a stone or timber.

26. Carpentry. a small piece of wood set into a timber across the grain to prevent warping.  (I couldn't find a picture of this.)
27. Building Trades. any grooving or roughness applied to a surface to improve its bond with another surface.

28. Basketballkeyhole.

29. Photography. the dominant tonal value of a picture, a high-key picture having light tonal values and minimal contrast and a low-key picture being generally dark with minimal contrast.
30. Painting. the tonal value and intensity of a color or range of colors: Rembrandt's colors are characterized by their low key.

31. Botany. a samara (a particular kind of seed).

32. a member of the House of Keys (the governing body of Isle of Man).

33. (plural keys) spiritual authority.


"Could anything be greater or more desirable than to hold the Priesthood after the Order of the Son of God?  These words are so sacred that we do not ordinarily use them.  Rather, we call this the Melchizedek Priesthood, after the high priest who was king of Salem--that is, Jerusalem.

"The greatest of all high priests was Jesus Himself.  Paul bears witness of this as he reminds us that 'we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God' (Heb. 4:14).  As the Firstborn of the Father, He possessed all of the keys and authority of the Eternal priesthood, which is 'without beginning of days or end of years' (Alma 13:7).

"Jesus bestowed this divine authority upon His chosen Apostles, saying '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' (Matt. 16:19).

"My brethren, I invite you to contemplate for a moment the wonder of this.  No king, no president, no head of state, no man of business or secular activity of any kind has such authority by reason of his office.  And yet it was given to these humble men who walked with Jesus as His Apostles.

"Three of these Apostles--Peter, James, and John--appeared to Joseph [Smith] and Oliver [Cowdery] somwhere 'in the wilderness' along the Susquehanna River (see D&C 128:20).  They placed their hands upon their heads and conferred upon them this holy authority.  We do not have the date, but evidence points to the fact that likely it was late May or sometime in June of...1829...

"Each of you brethren who hold this priesthood has also received it in a direct line from the bestowal made by Peter, James, and John.  Its origin is not shrouded in the foggy mists of history.

"Endless are its powers, endless its authority.  It is by this authority that we are empowered to lay hands upon the heads of those who have been baptized and bestow upon them the priceless gift of the Holy Ghost.  It is by this same authority that we are empowered to bless the sick, to anoint them with oil, and to seal that anointing and call down the powers of heaven in their behalf.  It is by this same authority that we are empowered to lay our hands upon the heads of our wives and children and give them special blessings in times of need.  It is by this same authority that we are empowered to govern in the affairs of the Church and kingdom of God" (President Gordon B. Hinckley, p. 410-412).


Harper-Collins Study Bible
James E. Talmadge, Jesus the Christ
David H. Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary
Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, Vol. 1
J.R. Dummelow, The One-Volume Bible Commentary
Gordon B. Hinckley, Satellite Broadcast, 175th Anniversary of the Restoration of the Priesthood, recorded in Discourses of President Gordon B. Hinckley, Vol. 2
Joseph F. Smith, Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, p.