The Roles of Moses and Aaron
(and the parallels between Joseph and Oliver)
There is an interesting and instructive account in the Old Testament of a time when the prophet Aaron and the prophetess Miriam took issue with their brother Moses for taking an Ethiopian woman as a wife.
The account is somewhat vague as to why they thought this action constituted a serious transgression on the part of Moses. Some believe it had to do with miscegenation, while others feel it had to do with violating the higher celestial law of marital monogamy. Perhaps some feel that both were issues.
Needless to say, both Aaron and Miriam were well schooled in the law, indeed Aaron as the High Priest over Israel and the Patriarchal Priesthood, and was given control over the Urim and Thummim by which the will of God was determined. God had commissioned Aaron and his descendants to distinguish the holy from the common and the clean from the unclean. Aaron, as the spokesman for God’s servant Moses, was responsible for expounding the law to the Children of Israel.
It is therefore of no small consequence that Aaron and Miriam took issue with their brother Moses and seemed to be quite dogmatic in their contention that Moses had sinned a very grievous sin.
Regardless of what the supposed transgression was, the Lord used this event to instruct the prophet Aaron and the prophetess Miriam about the difference between their priesthood callings and that of Moses. Indeed, the Lord showed them the distinction between their revelatory relationship with Him, verses Moses relationship with Him.
Please note the following narrative very closely:
AND Miriam and Aaron spake against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married: for he had married an Ethiopian woman.
And they said, Hath the LORD indeed spoken only by Moses? hath he not spoken also by us? And the LORD heard it.
(Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.)
And the LORD spake suddenly unto Moses, and unto Aaron, and unto Miriam, Come out ye three unto the tabernacle of the congregation. And they three came out. Numbers 12:1-4
After noting what they assumed was a serious transgression in their brother Moses, Aaron and Miriam counseled among themselves observing that the Lord had given both of them the spirit of revelation just as Moses had been given the spirit of revelation. Their logic was that since they were prophets of the Lord just as Moses was, and since Aaron was a teacher of the law, they had the right to call Moses to repentance just as he could call them to repentance.
The account informs us that Moses was very meek. Indeed he was more meek than any other man upon the face of the earth. This is in itself, a doctrinal key that is worthy of exhaustive gospel study to help us in our spiritual preparation to meet God.
We are also informed that after hearing the murmurings and accusations of these two prophets against Moses, the servant of the Lord, the Lord had Moses, Aaron, and Miriam enter into the holy tabernacle of the congregation for a severe chastisement. The narrative continues:
And the LORD came down in the pillar of the cloud, and stood in the door of the tabernacle, and called Aaron and Miriam: and they both came forth.
And he said, Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you, I the LORD will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream.
My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house.
With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the LORD shall he behold: wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?
And the anger of the LORD was kindled against them; and he departed. Numbers 12:5-9
From the above narrative we learn that most prophets, like Aaron and Miriam, commonly receive revelation from the Lord through visions and dreams. Just like most of the ancient patriarchs and prophets like Abraham and Lehi did. However, prophets like Moses, literally stand in the presence of God and speak mouth to mouth with the Lord.
In other passages referring to Moses, it is said that Moses spoke “face to face” with God. A designation that rarely shows up in reference to other prophets:
And it came to pass, as Moses entered into the tabernacle, the cloudy pillar descended, and stood at the door of the tabernacle, and the Lord talked with Moses.
And all the people saw the cloudy pillar stand at the tabernacle door: and all the people rose up and worshipped, every man in his tent door.
And the LORD spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend. Exodus 33:9-11
It is very significant that the Lord does not justify the actions of Moses by explaining how Moses did not violate the law of God, rather, the issue had to do with the calling and relationship that Moses had with God.
Moses seems to be untouchable, even when it appeared as if he would transgressing the law.
It is as if there is a bigger narrative behind the surface narrative that God does not desire to discuss. Or perhaps his declaration of the relationship that Moses had with God WAS the explanation for why Moses could act out transgressions to God’s laws without any apparent accountability from human priesthood holders.
It is almost as if the oath and covenant that Moses had established with God had qualified Moses to act differently than his fellow mortals that had a lesser relationship with God. Perhaps Moses had been qualified to act as an intercessor to offer up atonement offerings and to act out the sins of the people….
It is extremely odd that the nature of the accused sin is not appear to be the direct subject being addressed by God, rather, it is Moses’ very unique level of meekness and covenant relationship with God. Moses has a “face to face” relationship with God.
Nevertheless, with the components of the above narrative in mind, it is interesting to see a parallel teaching in modern revelation regarding Joseph’s role, as one like Moses, and Oliver Cowdery’s role, as one like Aaron:
BEHOLD, I say unto thee, Oliver, that it shall be given unto thee that thou shalt be heard by the church in all things whatsoever thou shalt teach them by the Comforter, concerning the revelations and commandments which I have given.
But, behold, verily, verily, I say unto thee, no one shall be appointed to receive commandments and revelations in this church excepting my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., for he receiveth them even as Moses.
And thou shalt be obedient unto the things which I shall give unto him, even as Aaron, to declare faithfully the commandments and the revelations, with power and authority unto the church.
And if thou art led at any time by the Comforter to speak or teach, or at all times by the way of commandment unto the church, thou mayest do it.
But thou shalt not write by way of commandment, but by wisdom;
And thou shalt not command him who is at thy head, and at the head of the church;
For I have given him the keys of the mysteries, and the revelations which are sealed, until I shall appoint unto them another in his stead. And thou shalt not command him who is at thy head, and at the head of the church D&C:28:1-7
Do you see the parallels in the two narratives?
The patriarchal prophet Oliver Cowdery was not to command the prophet, Joseph Smith, who had been the designated head of the church and holder of the Melchizedek keys of the mysteries, just as Aaron was not to command Moses.
The prophet Oliver was to be heard in the church and could expound and teach doctrine as inspired by the comforter, just as the prophet Aaron had done anciently, however,
“no one shall be appointed to receive commandments and revelations in this church excepting my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., for he receiveth them even as Moses.” Furthermore, ” thou shalt not command him who is at thy head, and at the head of the church” D&C 28:1-2
We are informed in this revelation that by this date, September of 1830, Joseph had received the” keys of the mysteries, and the revelations which are sealed, until I shall appoint unto them another in his stead.”
Joseph had received priesthood keys that Oliver had not received. Joseph had been given keys that enabled him to receive a higher level of revelation, pertaining to mysteries and sealed revelations. These keys apparently pertained to and were under the direction of Melchizedek priesthood, not patriarchal priesthood.
Clearly this revelation was given shortly after the restoration of the keys of the Patriarchal priesthood by John the Baptist to both Joseph and Oliver, and BEFORE the restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood to 23 men at the Morley Farm.
Is it possible to be given priesthood keys to the Melchizedek Priesthood before being given the Melchizedek Priesthood?
Is it possible to be given the keys to a house before using the keys to enter the house?
I think so.
Is it possible that Joseph needed to have the Melchizedek Priesthood keys before the special conference and the revealing of the Melchizedek Priesthood could take place?
I don’t know.
There seems to be a very specific and calculated order to how priesthood keys and offices were introduced into the church at the time of the restoration. First the keys pertaining to Abraham’s Power given by John the Baptist. Then missionary work begins as converts are baptised in to the church. Then the keys to the mysteries are given to Joseph from Peter. Shortly thereafter the Melchizedek Priesthood is manifested as the heavens are opened and 23 high priesthoods are called and ordained to be High Priests by the voice of God out of heaven.
It appears as if the reception of the “keys of the mysteries and revelations which are sealed” were given prior to the special conference at the Morley Farm and they were given to Joseph specifically and not to Oliver Cowdery.
Oliver had a different standing and relationship before God than Joseph did.
The keys of the mysteries spoken of were not given to Joseph and Oliver by John the Baptist. It appears as if they were given to Joseph, by hand, by Peter, probably in the presence of James and John, as well as Oliver.
It appears these keys pertaining to the highest priesthood were given to Joseph Smith by Peter sometime between the appearance of John the Baptist and the restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood at the Morley Farm:
“I was also present when the higher or Melchizedek Priesthood . . . was conferred by the holy angel from on high.”
He was there to be a witness to the event taking place. It appears he did not declare that Peter gave him the keys, he declared that he was present when they were given to Joseph. Oliver’s calling was limited to Patriarchal Priesthood. This may explain why it was Sidney that saw the Father and the Son with Joseph and yet, after the Melchizedek priesthood was taken away, it was Oliver that was joined with Joseph during the patriarchal bestowing of keys that took place in April of 1836.
Differing levels of Divine Communication
Back when I did a critique of a fabulous book by Karl Anderson, I took issue with him for suggesting that it is not wise or important to try to distinguish the different levels of revelation that prophets have had with God.
I passionately disagree.
I believe it is critically important to understand the distinction between prophets that speak directly with God and those that must receive communication in a dream or vision.
I have speculated, based on the above account in which the Lord explains the distinction between his relationship between Moses and that of his brother and sister, that there are differing levels of revelation and priesthood stewardship demonstrated in modern revelation.
I have suggested that when Joseph and Sidney spoke with God as documented in section 76, they were probably speaking face to face with him as they gazed up into the heavens and saw and conversed with him. So powerful was this communication that Joseph and Oliver declared that
..Of whom we bear record; and the record which we bear is the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, who is the Son, whom we saw and with whom we conversed in the heavenly vision…while we meditated upon these things, the Lord touched the eyes of our understandings and they were opened, and the glory of the Lord shone round about.
And we beheld the glory of the Son, on the right hand of the Father, and received of his fulness;
And saw the holy angels, and them who are sanctified before his throne, worshiping God, and the Lamb, who worship him forever and ever.
And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!
For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father—
That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God. D&C 76:19-24
It appears that the communication between God and his servants Joseph and Sidney, may have been in real time, face to face, similar to how God communicated with Moses, even though a vision was used to communicate past and future events during this visitation.
It is no coincidence that this communication took place during the 3 1/2 half year period that the fulness of the Gospel was on the earth between June of 1831 and december of 1834.
It is no coincidence that Joseph and Sidney had received the Melchizedek priesthood and it was during that period of time that God declared that they had entered into the oath and covenant of the priesthood and had had their names entered into the books of the sanctified. That would indicate a significant level of meekness that they had obtained by the grace and mercy of God.
Fast forward several years to April 3 1836, after the fulness of the priesthood had been temporarily removed, and the saints were left with the Patriarchal/Evangelical priesthood that had been restored to the earth by John the Baptist.
A very important communication once again needed to take place that would orally transfer the keys of the gathering of Israel. At this time, an ancient gospel dispensation would be committed enabling the fulfillment of the atonement statute prophecy. Additionally, a very important declaration would be made by the same angel that had restored the keys of the Patriarchal Power of Abraham seven years previously.
I would suggest that the above communication may not have been a real time, face to face communication, but rather a visionary communication. It may have been a revelation on the level of Patriarchal Priesthood rather than a face to face communication on the Melchizedek Priesthood level.
This of course is all speculation being made by a heretic in an effort to better understand the laws of God and how he communicates with his children and the events of the glorious LDS restoration movement.
 Exodus 15:20