Question: If we (LDS) are the covenant people in the scriptures how did Brigham Young and everyone after him obtain the keys necessary for baptism if he/they did not rise to the level of a prophet? How do we have the keys to perform this basic ordinance? Can we still be labeled as covenant people without the priesthood? My understanding is we have the Aaronic but not the Melchizedek priesthood. But even then, how? Is there somewhere in the scriptures that points out how we can have this baptismal covenant without the proper means of authority, and still claim the label as God’s covenant people? Don’t the scriptures teach that only Jesus Christ himself can administer the fulness of the priesthood? How can we distinguish between false prophets and prophets called of God?
Answer: Unfortunately, the premise on which your questions are based relies on the teachings of an apostate group that is perverting many well-documented facts relating to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and which is arrogating to itself powers or authorities it does not possess in the pattern of other apostate groups over the years that fulfill Jesus’ prediction of false prophets and false Christs that would arise in the last days to deceive the people. Their members have lost the Holy Spirit, which Holy Spirit is evident in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and which is itself a sign that follows baptism for the remission of sins by one having authority.
Before his death, the prophet Joseph Smith bestowed the keys of the Melchizedek priesthood on the quorum of the twelve and charged them to administer the affairs of the church including ministering in the priesthood. It is true that only Jesus Christ bestows the keys of translation, which translation was received by Moses, Elijah, and others. But pertaining to baptism and ordination to the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods, those authorities have continued in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as evidenced by the manifestation among its members of the Holy Ghost, the Holy Spirit of Promise, healings, visions, revelations, visitations, and so forth.
Although Book of Mormon prophets who saw our day cite many faults among the Ephraimite Gentiles—who comprise those whom Jesus calls “my people who are of the covenant” (3 Nephi 21:11), whom Nephi chastens for assuming “all is well in Zion” (2 Nephi 28:21, 24–25)—a lack of priesthood authority isn’t one of them. Rather, such faults consist of subscribing to precepts of men (2 Nephi 28:14–16, 26–32), bringing forth evil fruit (Jacob 5:32, 37), and polluting “the holy church of God” (Mormon 8:38). And yet, it is out of this church that arise the Ephraimite Gentiles’ spiritual kings and queens who restore the house of Israel (Isaiah 49:23–23; 2 Nephi 10:7–9).