As he laid his hands upon the heads of Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, John the Baptist pronounced: “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” (Doctrine and Covenants 13:1).
Presiding Bishop Gérald Caussé emphasized the important preparatory work done by John the Baptist during the Savior’s mortal ministry: “What would the Savior’s mission have been like without the preparatory work performed by John? John the Baptist was given one of the most noble missions to ever exist: ‘to prepare the way of the Lord’ [1 Nephi 10:7], to baptize Him with water, and to make ready a people to receive Him” (“Prepare the Way,” April 2017 general conference).
In our day, the Aaronic Priesthood is also preparing a people to receive the Lord, just as John the Baptist did in his day. When the deacons, teachers and priests officiate in the Aaronic Priesthood by preparing, blessing and passing the sacrament, they are preparing the way for all members of the Church to participate in the gospel of repentance and baptism and receive essential blessings.
Receiving the Holy Ghost and the ministering of angels
During the sacrament, Church members renew the covenants and promises they made when they were baptized. As they have faith in Jesus Christ and sincerely repent — always remembering the Savior and keeping His commandments — they receive a sacred promise that they will “always have his Spirit to be with them” (Doctrine and Covenants 20:77). About this promise, President Dallin H. Oaks stated, “To have the continuous companionship of the Holy Ghost is the most precious possession we can have in mortality” (“The Aaronic Priesthood and the Sacrament,” October 1998 general conference).
President Oaks also taught, “Those who hold the Aaronic Priesthood open the door for all Church members who worthily partake of the sacrament to enjoy the companionship of Spirit of the Lord and the ministering of angels.”
The Holy Ghost and the ministering of angels have similar sacred responsibilities. Through the Holy Ghost we receive guidance, protection and instruction. His influence brings joy, peace, understanding, comfort and fulfillment. Personal gifts and talents are expanded, truth is taught and lives are changed. Likewise, “angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost” (2 Nephi 32:3). We receive both the Holy Ghost and the ministering of angels through our personal righteousness. About the ministering of angels, Elder George Q. Cannon wrote: “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. ... They watch over us and have us in their keeping” (Elder George Q. Cannon, Gospel Truth, 1:2).
The duties of Aaronic Priesthood holders to teach, preach, expound and invite all to come unto Christ (see Doctrine and Covenants 20:46–59) are performed in a special way when they prepare, administer and pass the sacrament. In so doing they are giving all members the opportunity to receive the precious blessings of the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost and the ministering of angels.
Offering the sacrament in righteousness
As they offer the sacrament to members, Aaronic Priesthood holders are inviting all members to “come unto Christ, and be perfected in him” (Moroni 10:32). This is a time when the young men reverently speak the words of Christ as they represent Him. This is one way they “watch over the church always, and be with them and strengthen them” (Doctrine and Covenants 20:53). Following the example of John the Baptist as he baptized our Lord, they do not bring attention to themselves (see Matthew 3:11). They do not do anything that would distract those they serve from experiencing the sacred renewal of the sacrament. They invite the Spirit of the Lord by being clean in appearance, dress and language. They speak distinctly and with dignity so that others may hear and understand the promises. Through their own worthiness and covenant keeping, they honorably bear the sacred “vessels of the Lord” (Doctrine and Covenants 133:5).
How appropriate that these wonderful Aaronic Priesthood holders offer to us as Church members the precious gifts of sacrament. They offer the sacred sacramental emblems to us under the direction of the keys of the priesthood, preparing the way for us to humbly receive the blessings of repentance and of baptism, the ministering of angels and the sacred gift of the Holy Ghost — “the most precious possession we can have in mortality” (“The Aaronic Priesthood and the Sacrament”).