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According to LDS teaching, Peter, James and John conferred upon Joseph Smith the Melchizedek Priesthood shortly after John the Baptist had conferred upon him the Aaronic Priesthood.

The title of the page is "The Priesthood of God Returns to the Earth". However, LDS teaching also states that the Apostle John never died, but is still alive on earth today. Since John was one of the three who conferred on Joseph Smith the Melchizedek Priesthood, it seems to indicate that John himself possessed that priesthood. Since John was still alive on the earth, it would seem, then, that the priesthood never, in fact, left the earth and, therefore, could not be returned.

So, what does the LDS church mean when it states that the Priesthood returned to earth when it was conferred upon Joseph Smith?

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Please comment on why the downvote –  Narnian Nov 8 '12 at 20:09
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Yeah, I +1d an interesting question. I may not be Mormon, but I definitely want to understand their theology. –  Affable Geek Nov 8 '12 at 22:13
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John still held the priesthood during that time (as did the three Nephites who were given the same blessing as John), but the function of the priesthood was limited to his particular, ministerial duties. In other words, the fulness of the Priesthood was not active because its keys did not remain on the earth.

John was not called to be the President of the Lord's church, and thus didn't hold all the keys to the Priesthood. Those keys needed to be restored so that a new prophet (President of the Church) could be called. Peter, James and John together could do this, because they were commissioned by Christ; and Peter, as the president of the primitive Church, held the keys and could confer them.

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"Ministerial duties" probably don't include preaching in this case. –  JustinY Nov 9 '12 at 13:55
    
I think your statement that John didn't hold all of the keys in incorrect: lds.org/scriptures/dc-testament/dc/27.12-13?lang=eng#10 –  JustinY Nov 9 '12 at 14:22
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I think that passage means Peter, James, and John collectively, not John as an individual. For instance, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles holds all the keys of the priesthood (the same as the prophet does) as a quorum -- no one apostle can exercise them without a commission from the president of the church. –  Matt Nov 9 '12 at 14:40
    
Yes, but holding the keys and being able to exercise them are two different things. –  JustinY Nov 9 '12 at 14:42
    
True, but John did not hold them by himself; they are held by the quorum, as a quorum. When only one member of the quorum is present on the earth (and even to what extent John is considered "on the earth" can be debated), I don't think those keys are active, or effectively present. –  Matt Jan 16 '13 at 1:33
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Another note I'd like to point out, as far as the LDS have been given, they do not know of them ordaining anyone to the priesthood after the first century AD (IMO they were either commanded not to or knew something about what time the Lord would command it to be given again). According to the LDS, John and the three Nephites had the priesthood but to mankind in general it was closed after it was lost to wickedness. At what point that happened exactly isn't found in LDS scripture, although various individuals have different ideas. All that is known is by the time God and Christ appeared to Joseph Smith is that they said of the churches that there was none. (this can be found in the Joseph Smith history segment that is included in the standard LDS set of scriptures)

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Welcome to Christianity.SE! –  Matt Nov 9 '12 at 15:06
    
@Matt: Thank you! –  NBSmith Nov 9 '12 at 15:51
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