In the Worldwide Leadership Conference this month President Packer made this interesting statement:
"Any elder holds as much priesthood as does the President of the Church or as I do as an Apostle—different offices. But the priesthood is not delegated out and parceled a little here and a little there. It is given all at once. In the ordinance where ordinations take place, the priesthood is conferred, and then the office is conferred. So a young man as young as 18 planning to go on a mission has this ordinance, and they first say, “We confer upon you the Melchizedek Priesthood” and then ordain you to the office of elder in that priesthood." (See Priesthood Power in the Home.)
This statement is interesting in its implications. All the more so because of President Grant's alteration of the practice. He discontinued conferring the priesthood. Instead he had the church ordaining to an office in the church, which he said was enough. There was no need to confer priesthood, only to ordain to an office. On the point raised by President Packer, we have an earlier statement of President Jos. F. Smith dealing with a slightly different issue. These two statements, however, can be considered together:
"Then again, if it were necessary, though I do not expect the necessity will ever arise, and there was no man left on the earth holding the Melchizedek Priesthood, except an elder-- that elder, by the inspiration of the Spirit of God and by the direction of the Almighty, could proceed, and should proceed, to organize the Church of Jesus Christ in all its perfection, because he holds the Melchizedek Priesthood." (Gospel Doctrine, p. 148.)
These explanations of the "whole" being present in the conferral to anyone of the Melchizedek Priesthood has profound doctrinal implications regarding the subject of "keys" and their application. Brigham Young claimed possession of keys through his ordination to the apostleship (1835). He would later adopt Elder Pratt's position that the relevant keys came in the 1836 Kirtland Temple appearances. This topic of how authority is preserved or passed is also quite interesting and worth pondering, I think. Something about which many claims are made, but the underlying mechanics are not well understood.
Clearly, if it was important for angels to individually appear to Joseph (and Oliver or Sidney), then it raises the question of how widely that gets spread about, and how any surviving Elder could organize the church "in all its perfection." Then again, what does Jos. F. Smith's reference to "the inspiration of the Spirit of God and by the direction of the Almighty" include?
President Packer's teaching that any elder in the church holds as much priesthood as does the church president or any of the apostles is, however, a very valid point. I agree with President Packer on that score.