The "greater" and "lesser" priesthoods spoken of in section 84 are not necessarily the same as the "melchizedek" and "aaronic" priesthoods in the LDS church today. We can tell because of the scriptural description of the authority and power of these priesthoods.
A class member asked about the authority held by the President of the Church. "Doesn't he hold all the priesthood authority?" The President of the Church doesn't necessarily hold the priesthood described in D&C 84. I know that sounds strange, but bear with me and it will make sense.
The scriptural (and Temple) priesthoods are best understood to be "fellowships". There is a fellowship among men and men (aaronic1), a fellowship between men and angels (aaronic2), a fellowship between men and Christ (melchizedek1), and a fellowship between men and the Father (fulness of the melchizedek). Which priesthood can only be received by conversing through the veil by the keeper of the Gate, which is the Holy One of Israel (2 Nephi 9:41)
The scriptural "greater" or "melchizedek" priesthood actually opens the heavens (Read DC 107:18-19 to add to the definition given in DC 84:19-22) and allows one to bear His Eternal Glory while in the flesh and be in his Presence (D&C 76:117-118), which is a power absent from the institution since Joseph Smith died (D&C 124:28, D&C 84:23-25). Since that is the entire function of that priesthood (enter into God's presence and have an association with Him), the heavens should be open to anyone who actually holds that authority. It is this "required authority" that is needed to build Zion. When its here, an offer is extended, when the offer is rejected and the people are unable to bear his presence it is taken away until a later group is given another offer to build Zion. If they reject it, the cycle continues. Very few are ever cable of doing what it takes to build Zion.
This is why the President of the Church doesn't necessarily hold the priesthood described in D&C 84. There have been apostles, and even presidents of the church, who testified that they had not received these fellowships. They hold all the authority that can be given by the laying on of men's hands, and are sustained by common consent, so they can function in their callings, but they don't necessarily hold the "priesthood" after the Holy Order described in the scriptures.
To support this, I quoted this passage from Josephs October 5, 1840 discourse on priesthood: "the Keys of this priesthood consisted in obtaining the voice of Jehovah that he talked with him in a familiar and friendly manner".
The church generally, including our "melchizedek priesthood", functions only with the Aaronic priesthood ( a fellowship between men and men) because that is the level that administers outward ordinances and teaches the letter of the gospel or prepartory Gospel. Again see Section 107.
I referenced the passage with Moses and Israel (DC 84:23-25, quoted below). I have discussed the idea that God wants us in his presence right now "in the flesh". He didn't call moses to lead the children of israel to become devoted "mosesites". Adam and his children three years before Adam's death had a meeting, where the Lord appeared. Adam-ondi-Ahman, or another name would be Adam in the presence of God (again the temple teaches us to portray ourselves as Adam or Eve). If you want to be a part of this meeting you must also enter into His presence. Obtain an assignment from Him (D&C 128:21). The scriptures teach us how to do this. (2 Nephi 32:6-7, 4 Nephi 1:12)
Read D&C 107:53-55 and read about that event. Read the teachings of Joseph Smith: A Discourse on Priesthood (Instructions delivered sometime in July 1839), where he said that Adam blessed his posterity because he wanted to bring them into the presence of the Lord.
If Adam wanted to bring his children into God's presence, and Moses wanted to bring Israel into God's presence, then that is also what Joseph Smith wanted, and D&C 84 (including the "oath and covenant" passage) should be read in that context.
Back to D&C 84: 23. Why, in the middle of a revelation about Zion in "this generation" would the Lord digress to talk about this specific incident with Moses and Israel (DC 84:23-25)? We should draw parallels between that story and us. If you read that passage and replaced "Moses" with "Joseph Smith", you would get a much truer (complete) version of our history than anything in our manuals. If you do this study D&C 124:28.
Joseph Fielding Smith was raised from birth to believe that the institution was perfect, and the embodiment of everything God describes in the scriptures. Thus he reads the scriptures, and expounds them, in a way that conforms to his expectation. I don't share that belief, so I recognize that my interpretation of these scriptures is different than President Smith. JFS said in the year 1972, the same year he died.
I did not live in the days of our Savior; he has not come to me in person. I have not beheld him. His Father and he have not felt it necessary to grant me such a great blessing as this. But it is not necessary. I have felt his presence. (Teachings of Joseph Fielding Smith, Chapter 2, Our Savior, Jesus Christ)I have shown how his definition of God differed from Joseph Smiths. I have shown we do NEED to enter into his presence (D&C 88:1-5, D&C 76:117-118, Ether 3:13) at least if we want to be anything like Abraham, Jacob, and Issac and their degree of Faith in God. I have shown how JFS disagreed with the definition of God revealed through Joseph Smith in my Post "Changing the commandments of God: Lectures on Faith". Not to discredit the man as he did receive revelation (D&C 138) in response to his questions, as he was about to die and was pondering the welfare of his own soul. He used the scriptures as they were intended, a Urim and Thummin, and they were opened up to his view. However, he like Brigham young were not like unto moses. As Brigham said, 11 years as president, "that perhaps I then may hold communion with the Lord, as did Moses. I am not now in that position" so that "If I am faithful until I am eighty years of age, perhaps the Lord will appear to me and personally dictate me in the management of his Church and people. " (Journal of Discourses, 7:243. Brigham Young, September 1, 1859, here). He made a similar statement 17 years as president.
It is 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’ (D&C 107:91). "92 Behold, here is wisdom..."
Read D&C 84:19. The priesthood contains "the keys of the mysteries of the kingdom", so, is the Temple Endowment a key? YES, as I have referenced this in prior quotes by Joseph smith the "keys of the kingdom" are certain "signs" one must know to "prevent imposition". "Elders must know them all, to be endowed with power, to finish their work and prevent imposition"(Joseph Smith, History of The Church, 7 vols. , 4:608 or Joseph Smith Papers). Read Joseph's description of the endowment in D&C 124:94-96, where Hyrum, a "priesthood holder" already, had to use "the keys whereby he may ask and receive" in order to receive "priesthood, and gifts of the priesthood". That's because there was something greater to be had, a fellowship with the divine. D&C 84 and the temple endowment are both describing this same process, of being "chosen, called up, and anointed a king and priest".
As the Oath states "I now confirm upon you who are present this day, by mine own voice out of the heavens" (D&C 84:42) or as Joseph put it ""the Keys of this priesthood consisted in obtaining the voice of Jehovah that he talked with him in a familiar and friendly manner". (Joseph Smith Papers, here)" No man has these keys until they obtain this voice out of the heavens. Also seen in the Joseph Smith Translation of Genesis 14. "And it was delivered unto men by the calling of his own voice" (JST Genesis 14:29) Notice its His voice not mans. By His calling not mans. No man can bestow this power except God. Thus "All the prophets had the Melchizedek Priesthood and were ordained by God himself" (TPJS, pp. 180-81)
Think of the "Plan of salvation" diagram and think if you have ever heard it explained that "we need to do certain things here (earth), in order to return and live with heavenly father in the Celestial Kingdom". It is so common to change the true religion of God, where the whole point is to return to his presence "in the flesh," into a religion of man that requires subservience here with the promise of some afterlife reward. If you are going to understand the scriptures, including D&C 84, you first need to understand the difference between those two religions.
Its almost as if the Lord saw our day when he made this statement.
20 ¶And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation:So when I hear class members in Sunday school tell me the kingdom of God goes onward and talks about all the buildings, all the temples, all the tithing, all the great things being built up. I just smile. "And others will [Satan] pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well" (2 Nephi 28:21)
21 Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you. (Luke 17:20-21)
Purpose of the Priesthood
So that the power of godliness can be manifest in the flesh.
"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 fulness of his glory. Therefore, he took Moses out of their midst, and the Holy Priesthood also." (D&C 84:17-26.) What a calamity! Because they did not use the priesthood for the purpose for which it was given--and it was given that they might sanctify themselves so as to "behold the face of God"--the Lord withdrew the very priesthood itself. Israel, as a people, was left with the preparatory gospel only, with the law of Moses. Her people were denied what they might have had because they did not magnify their callings in the priesthood. A little thoughtful reflection will cause us to conclude that there are those in latter-day Israel who are not striving to use the Melchizedek Priesthood for the purpose for which it was given any more than did our ancient ancestors. Again -- what a calamity! (Priesthood Prepares (Wo)Men to See God, Bruce R. McConkie, The Promised Messiah, 578-595)Women and the Priesthood
Where there is a fellowship with the divine there is the priesthood. Both male and female. Joseph said if you could gaze into heaven for 5 minutes you would know more than all the books written on the subject. Anything that distracts us from what devolves upon YOU to connect with heaven is a distraction from the course back to God. The ascent back into God's presence while in the flesh, which is the fulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The Redemption of Man
As I mentioned the two very different religions read this verse.
114 But great and marvelous are the works of the Lord, and the mysteries of his kingdom which he showed unto us, which surpass all understanding in glory, and in might, and in dominion;I care only for the revelations from heaven. Men who have never gazed into heaven simply do not know the truth. Good men, honest men, and men of the highest intent who know nothing about the heavens cannot help anyone to find their way to God. The reason "the professors [of traditional Christianity] are all corrupt" is not because they are bad people. (JS-H 1: 19.) It is because their doctrine is wrong. They do not have the truth. They entertain ideas which are not informed by heaven, and rely upon men to speculate about meaning, without knowing a thing about heaven. So they introduce the philosophies of men mingled with scriptures while the true doctrines fades away with time. They resort to meetings, surveys, a gathering of the elite and most knowledgeable scholars to decide on what is truth when compiling their own Bible's.
115 Which he commanded us we should not write while we were yet in the Spirit, and are not lawful for man to utter;
116 Neither is man capable to make them known, for they are only to be seen and understood by the power of the Holy Spirit, which God bestows on those who love him, and purify themselves before him;
117 To whom he grants this privilege of seeing and knowing for themselves;
118 That through the power and manifestation of the Spirit, while in the flesh, they may be able to bear his presence in the world of glory.
And men teach to stay others hands, teaching to leave the mysteries alone because they are dangerous, which Alma relates having such beliefs as one that has an hardened heart and being led captive by the chains of the devil. (Alma 12:10-11). They have no interest in the mysteries so they lure others away from them. They do not comprehend the things of God so they interpolate their own meanings, opinions, and creeds upon them. Thus the children of men are bogged down by the precepts of men and tossed to and fro not knowing where to turn while others cry lo here and lo here.
Thy mind, O man! if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search into and contemplate the darkest abyss, and the broad expanse of eternity—thou must commune with God. (Joseph Fielding Smith (editor), Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 137)My heart aches for the precepts of men that cause us to error (2 Nephi 28:14). My heart grieves for the sins that continuously beset me. For the falsehoods that I have been led captive by that I must continually cast off if I ever wish to be redeemed in the kingdom of God. But I know God descended below all these things suffering greater contradictions than any man can and he can show me the way back if I will not harden my heart and remain sufficiently humble calling upon Him. But first we must be willing to cast off the false traditions handed down to us. We must have interest in these things or else God will be everlastingly patient with long-suffering until we realize His ways are better than our ways. Worlds without end his work continues with the children of men. His work is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.
Here is the experience of Newel Knight. Compare to Joseph's experience in D&C 76:20
He saw heaven opened and beheld the Lord Jesus Christ, sitting [at] the right hand of the Majesty on high, and had it made plain to his understanding that the time would come when he should be admitted into his presence to enjoy his society for ever and ever. (Joseph Smith Papers: Histories Vol. 1, p. 388, Draft 1)Times of the Gentiles
28 And when the times of the Gentiles is come in, a light shall break forth among them that sit in darkness, and it shall be the fulness of my gospel;
29 But they receive it not; for they perceive not the light, and they turn their hearts from me because of the precepts of men.
30 And in that generation shall the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.
31 And there shall be men standing in that generation, that shall not pass until they shall see an overflowing scourge; for a desolating sickness shall cover the land. (D&C 45:28-31)