When Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery received the Aaronic Priesthood from John the Baptist, John gave them the keys of the ministering of angels. Why were the keys of the ministering of angels given to the Aaronic Priesthood? And what’s the purpose? Thanks.
The ministering of angels is one of the blessings promised to those who are faithful in keeping the commandments of God. George Q. Cannon has written the following:
“Now, this is the truth. We humble people, we who feel ourselves sometimes so worthless, so good-for-nothing, we are not so worthless as we think. There is not one of us but what God’s love has been expended upon. There is not one of us that He has not cared for and caressed. There is not one of us that He has not desired to save and that He has not devised means to save. There is not one of us that He has not given His angels charge concerning. We may be insignificant and contemptible in our own eyes and in the eyes of others, but the truth remains that we are the children of God and that He has actually given His angels–invisible beings of power and might–charge concerning us, and they watch over us and have us in their keeping.” (George Q. Cannon, Gospel Truth, Vol. 1, p.2)
So, if we have angels who watch over us, is that not the ministering of angels? Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote:
“The Aaronic Priesthood opens the door to the ministering of angels, or in other words, those holding the lesser priesthood are in a position to have angels minister unto them. Wilford Woodruff, for instance, said: ‘I had the administration of angels while holding the office of a priest.’ (Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, p. 298.)” (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p.413)
So the Aaronic Priesthood have the privilege of having angels minister to them as occasion and their worthiness require. But that still doesn’t answer the question about the keys of the ministering of angels. The keys of the priesthood imply the directing or authorizing or enabling power of the priesthood. He who holds the keys may authorize the priesthood to function. As an example, the bishop holds the keys of the priesthood for the operation of his ward. No one in the ward could take it upon himself to administer to the sacrament, for instance, unless he were authorized by or under the direction of the bishop.
So again, how does the Aaronic Priesthood hold the keys to the ministering of angels? They do this by being responsible for the ordinances that qualify one to receive the ministering of angels. When we make the covenant of obedience to the Lord through baptism, and renew that covenant weekly through partaking of the sacrament, we qualify ourselves to be under the care of protecting and ministering angels. And those ordinances are the special province of the Aaronic priesthood. Elder Dallin H. Oaks, in the October, 1998 General Conference, explained the concept in these words:
What does it mean that the Aaronic Priesthood holds “The key of the ministering of angels” and of the “gospel of repentance and of baptism, and the remission of sins”? The meaning is found in the ordinance of baptism and in the sacrament. Baptism is for the remission of sins, and the sacrament is a renewal of the covenants and blessings of baptism. Both should be preceded by repentance. When we keep the covenants made in these ordinances, we are promised that we will always have His Spirit to be with us. The ministering of angels is one of the manifestations of that Spirit. (Elder Dallin H. Oaks, Ensign, November 1998, p 37-38)