Analysis of Russel M. Nelson: `Rejoice in the Gift of Priesthood Keys`

President Nelson talk

The last talk of General Conference was given by President Nelson. He delivered a message concerning the importance of Priesthood keys and why they are important. There are a lot of very interesting things to discuss in the talk. However, I do first want to say that President Nelson is doing remarkably well for his age. He has seen so much change in his life that it is crazy to think about.


As with the other talks I first want to look at the footnotes. Of course, because this talk is from President Nelson then it would be strange to see President Nelson references however, I guess it is possible. Of the 23 references though they are almost entirely scriptural which is great. The breakdown of the references are: 16 D&C, 1 Book of Mormon, and 1 Bible, with the rest being explanatory notes.

I am kind of surprised there were not more Biblical references, however the only biblical reference is really a reference to D&C 110. Therefore, there really are no biblical references at all. Growing up in the church I never really appreciated the Bible like I do now. However, as I have started to understand things differently then I have grown to really understand how unique and special the Bible is.

Joseph rarely taught from the Book of Mormon, which is not bad, however the Book of Mormon is just a way to appreciate the Bible better. When new scriptures are introduced then they will help us understand the Bible and Book of Mormon better. I don’t believe there is any other book of scripture that Jesus commanded his people to search than Isaiah, which is of course in the Bible.

Sell the Temple

President Nelson begins his talk by briefly discussing some of the history surrounding the Kirtland and Nauvoo temples. He mentioned:

Two earlier temples had functioned briefly in Kirtland, Ohio, and Nauvoo, Illinois. As the body of the Church moved west, the Saints were forced to leave those two temples behind. The Nauvoo Temple was destroyed by an arsonist’s fire.

Russel M. Nelson

This is mostly true, and I certainly don’t have any objections to the information directly. However, I believe it does paint an incomplete picture of the early church and their feelings towards the Kirtland and Nauvoo temples. Immediately after the death of Joseph in June 1844, the Nauvoo temple was still in construction and would be for some time. However, Brigham the new leader of the church, knew that they had to leave Nauvoo very soon.

Construction on the Nauvoo temple continued however the building was so large for the time that it was a massive undertaking. It is interesting though that the church of the time was able to finish other buildings that they prioritized higher such as the Nauvoo Masonic Lodge. Brigham had to of seen the temple as a liability, to a degree, because he knew he needed to leave, however he knew he needed to finish the temple as well. These two priorities certainly don’t overlap.

On December 10th, 1845, Brigham Young attempted to sell the Nauvoo temple to the Catholic church which formally declined the offer on January 7th, 1846. It was written about in the December 15th, 1845, edition of the New-York Messenger that two Catholic priests toured the temple in order to determine its value and suitability for the Catholic church. The article reads:

Two Catholic priests passed through this place on Monday last on their way to Nauvoo. Their object was to ascertain the nature and amount of property which the Mormons wish to dispose of to their church, and on what terms it can be bought

New York Messenger – December 15th, 1845

After being unable to sell the temple, Brigham and the Twelve met in the attic of the Nauvoo temple on February 8th, 1846, to have a very small dedication ceremony. Brigham Young then left Nauvoo just one week later on February 15th, 1846.

According to the diary of William C. Staines, about two months later, on April 29th, 1846 the twelve apostles met and voted to sell all church properties that they were leaving. This makes sense considering they were leaving the area and they certainly needed the money in their move west. This is also reflected in an April 1846 letter from John S. Fullmer who was asked by the twelve to sell all the properties. He wrote:

I am chosen together with two of the Brethren as ‘Trustees-in-Trust’ to dispose of all Church property and to use it in assisting the poor to go [to] the West.

John S. Fullmer

The Nauvoo temple was still not complete however it was then dedicated in several ceremonies from April to May of 1846. After this it was briefly used and then abandoned as the members left and moved west. Finally, it was destroyed by a suspected arsonist on October 9th, 1848. There is honestly so much about church history that we never discuss, yet it helps us to understand things so much better.

Kirtland Temple

President Nelson then continued his talk by discussing the remarkable visitations Joseph and Oliver Cowdrey experienced after the dedication of the Kirtland temple. Some people have gone to some effort to conclude these series of visions were an invention of later individuals. However, there is incredibly strong evidence to suggest that the visitations did happen, yet were not positive like the LDS church claims they were. Certainly, being visited by God or angels is a remarkable experience. It doesn’t however always mean, “further light and truth”, like the LDS church claims it does. We do know however that Joseph never spoke of these visitations.

President Nelson continues by discussing some of the events of the visitations and remarks:

Jesus Christ then declared that He had accepted the temple as His house and made this stunning promise: “I will manifest myself to my people in mercy in this house.”

This significant promise applies to every dedicated temple today. 

Russel M. Nelson

I have already analyzed this visitation in some depth which you can review. However, I agree with President Nelson that Christ accepted the Kirtland temple as an act of mercy. If we look at the events that led up to the dedication of the Kirtland temple then it exactly matches a sin offering as described in Leviticus. Joseph was performing a sin offering for the people and Christ accepted the offering. It is so symbolic and remarkable when you understand this. The original revelation also says that the Kirtland temple will be used again, which we often overlook.

At that time the members had rejected the fulness of the gospel and would shortly reject the offering to redeem Zion. They wanted to be God’s people, yet were soaking in the material prosperity they were now seeing. Scripturally at this time God had every right to cast them off as unprofitable servants, yet he extended mercy to them instead. God is so merciful to us when we deserve it the least.

The problem I see from this statement from President Nelson is that the end part is just frankly not true. He mentioned that if a temple is dedicated then it is accepted by God and God will dwell there. There has never been any LDS temple that has been accepted by God like the Kirtland temple has. This of course doesn’t mean that God doesn’t accept them. However, I think it is a strong assumption that certainly something major is different and we may want to rethink things.

Honestly, where is the request from God that he wanted the building in the first place? Where are the evidences or reliable testimonies that God accepted the building and dwells there? Why should this automatically apply just because a building is built or President Nelson said so?

Sealing Power

President Nelson then continues by discussing the visitation of Elijah and the supposed conferral of the sealing power. He said:

Then Elijah the prophet appeared. His appearance fulfilled Malachi’s promise that before the Second Coming, the Lord would send Elijah to “turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers.” Elijah conferred the keys of the sealing power upon Joseph Smith.

Russel M. Nelson

The scripture which President Nelson quotes is Malachi 4:5-6 which, as I mentioned, is really just a reference to D&C 110. I believe Elijah did visit Joseph in the Kirtland Temple, however there is literally no mention of a sealing power being transferred. This is a complete assumption and has been repeated so many times that it has become a fact in most members minds. If we look at the sealing concept though, then there is not a single reference to being sealed in marriage or families anywhere in the scriptures. It is always being sealed to God or sealed to Satan.

The LDS church uses this scripture from Malachi as an assumption for a sealing power, however Joseph literally gave us the interpretation for this scripture and clearly remarked that it pertained to baptisms for the dead instead. In D&C 128:17-18, Joseph quotes this exact verse and then mentions that the welding link between generations is baptisms for the dead. There is no ambiguity here at all in any form. Yet the LDS church today ignores this in order to promote the concept that only through them can you be with those that you love in the next life.

Priesthood Keys

President Nelson then continues his talk by discussing the priesthood and the conferral of keys that Joseph needed. It is important to note that there is no record, at all, of Peter, James, and John conferring the Melchizedek Priesthood on Joseph. We do know they did confer the office of apostle which is not part of the Melchizedek Priesthood or High Priesthood. An apostle is an elder scripturally which is of course not a high priest. According to Joseph, and several other accounts, the Melchizedek Priesthood was actually given at the Morley Farm Conference not in some random location in the woods.

This is very important because it separates the priesthood from the LDS church. In the LDS version of events the Priesthood and LDS church are synonymous which is exactly what President Nelson says here:

Priesthood keys distinguish The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from any other organization on earth. Many other organizations can and do make your life better here in mortality. But no other organization can and will influence your life after death.

Russel M. Nelson

To me this is such a dangerous thing to say because it negates so many examples in the scriptures. This also further reinforces the idea that without the LDS church then we can’t have the same standing with God as with the LDS church. I think this also is a way to scare people into compliance. It essentially is saying that without being in proper standing in the LDS church then we may be in eternal jeopardy.

This is also in direct opposition to the scriptures. For instance, Lehi, Abinadi, and Alma all went against the teachings of their church and frankly were more eternally blessed than if they had just followed along. This teaching also completely negates the power of God and just scares people into compliance to the power of men. It is wrong and spiritually dangerous to say things like this.


The last thing I want to look at is another dangerous concept that is very ubiquitous in Mormonism. Recently there has been a huge increase in temple focus and President Nelson continues that trend. He says:

My dear brothers and sisters, here is my promise. Nothing will help you more to hold fast to the iron rod than worshipping in the temple as regularly as your circumstances permit.

Russel M. Nelson

In a footnote for this paragraph, President Nelson clarifies that “iron rod” means “word of God”, which is frankly not much of a clarification. Does this mean scriptures, words of the living leaders, or a mixture of both. From my experience, it means whatever is most beneficial at the time. The concept though is another very dangerous example of putting the LDS church above everything else.

I personally attended the Las Vegas temple weekly for more than a year. I certainly enjoyed my time doing so however it frankly never helped me “hold fast to the iron rod” as President Nelson claimed it would. Of course, being worthy to attend the temple means I avoided many evils of the world which is a positive thing. However, it also meant that I was focused on things which ultimately were not as beneficial as other things.

Yes, the temple is a great place, and I am not saying otherwise. However, if we really wanted to understand the “word of God” then wouldn’t the best thing to do would be to study the word of God? How exactly does sitting in a room and watching a presentation that you have practically memorized, due to repetition, help you to understand the word of God more?

I believe he is simply saying that as we qualify our lives to be worthy to obtain a temple recommend then we will more easily understand the word of God, because then we will be in a better spiritual state to do so. This makes sense to me. As we more closely follow Christ in our lives then we will be in a better spiritual state to be spiritually receptive.

However, as I have looked at this previously the temple recommend questions are not necessarily the best indicator of a good spiritual state. They are certainly better than nothing, however I wouldn’t say they are foolproof either. For instance, to get a recommend then all you have to do is accept the leadership, be striving for moral cleanliness, striving for church obedience, obey the Word of Wisdom, and be a full tithe payer. This is a relatively low bar to reach in our journey back to God.


I like many of the things that President Nelson mentioned. However, there does seem to be an increased focus on the temple and the need to go to the temple. This is problematic, because many feel like God is leading them away from the temple. In this case, then President Nelson is clearly saying they are wrong, and he is right based entirely on some misunderstood scriptures. Things are much more complicated than LDS church always right and anyone that disagrees always wrong.

To summarize, the Priesthood was restored, however that restoration, according to Joseph, is completely different from the description the LDS church uses today. We have adopted a simplistic narrative that seems to reinforce the claims of the LDS church. Yet, this is not how the historical records we have describe things at all.

Lastly, the temple is a great place to commune with God. However, it is not the only place or maybe even the best place to do so. God will speak to us whenever and wherever we will let him. We can hear the voice of God in our own lives as we remove the false traditions of our fathers that lead us down incorrect paths. I respect President Nelson and the work he has done to further the name of Christ. I don’t want to discount that at all. However, until we are able to determine truth from error, then we are in bondage to the opinions of men.

Author: Patrick