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BILLY - The D&C says the aaronic priesthood won't be taken from the earth until the sons of levi make an offering in righteousness. Could you explain what will happen to the priesthood once this offering is made, and give a little background illuminating the necessity of this offering?
JOEL - The scripture in question says:
"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."(D&C 13:1)
In ancient Israel the Levites were in charge of the tabernacle of the congregation where they participated in the offering of sacrifices(2 Chron. 29). Malachi prophesied that, in the latter days, the sons of Levi, which would include Aaron's descendants, would again offer "an offering in righteousness".
"And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness." (Mal 3:3)
So in regards to the D&C scripture the priesthood of Aaron will always exist on the earth so that the members of this tribe are able to again offer their traditional sacrifices in this dispensation as part of the full restoration of the gospel. Although we don't yet know when this will happen nor what the exact nature of these sacrifices will be, they will apparently be similar to the blood sacrifices they did in ancient Israel.
According to Joseph Smith:
"These sacrifices, as well as every ordinance belonging to the Priesthood, will, when the Temple of the Lord shall be built, and the sons of Levi be purified, be fully restored and attended to in all their powers, ramifications, and blessings. This ever did and ever will exist when the powers of the Melchizedek Priesthood are sufficiently manifest; else how can the restitution of all things spoken of by the Holy Prophets be brought to pass. It is not to be understood that the law of Moses will be established again with all its rites and variety of ceremonies; this has never been spoken of by the prophets; but those things which existed prior to Moses' day, namely, sacrifice, will be continued." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp 172-173)
Joseph Fielding Smith said:
"We are living in the dispensation of the fulness of times into which all things are to be gathered, and all things are to be restored since the beginning. . . . It will be necessary, therefore, for the sons of Levi, who offered the blood sacrifices anciently in Israel, to offer such a sacrifice again to round out and complete this ordinance in this dispensation" (Doctrines of Salvation, 3:94).
The word "until" in the scripture doesn't necessarily mean that the Aaronic priesthood will end. It just means that it will still be around so they are able to perform the ordinance of making their offerings.
President Smith also said:
"The Priesthood of Aaron, or the Levitical Priesthood, will not end when the sons of Levi make their offering in righteousness. This priesthood continued in the Church which was organized by our Redeemer and continued until the days when apostasy drove the Church into the wilderness. There will be need for this priesthood in this dispensation at least as long as time endures and mortals dwell upon the earth." (Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions 1:118) (See also D&C 84:18).
In the D&C Joseph Smith seems to alude to how we now can make an "offering in righteousness" as we perform temple work for our ancestors:
"For he is like a refiner's fire, and like fuller's soap; and he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness. Let us, therefore, as a church and a people, and as Latter-day Saints, offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness; and let us present in his holy temple, when it is finished, a book containing the records of our dead, which shall be worthy of all acceptation." (D&C 128:24)
So to sum it all up, The performance of these offerings of the Levites is necessary as a part of the restoration of all things. And the priesthood of Aaron will remain before and after the Levites are able to again make their offering.
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