1-4. This is a revelation for the gathering of the Saints in Zion (outside of Independence, Missouri), where a temple is to be built.
5. Seriously we are going to build a temple.
5-6. The earliest text we have for these verses: “…a cloud shall rest upon it which cloud shall be even the glory of the Lord which shall fill the house, and the sons of Moses according to the holy Priest hood which he received under the [hand of his] father in Law Jethro..” So is it that the glory of the Lord shall fill the house and the sons of Moses according to the holy Priesthood? I tend to think so (you’ll see below). The next verses (7-16) are about this particular priesthood that makes you a son of Moses.
17. The priesthood of Moses is in upon all generations of the church and is eternal.
18. The Lord also gave a priesthood to Aaron and his sons, which is also through all generations and all time.
I’m going to stop here and note that in Nauvoo, JS revealed an expanded cosmological priesthood (seriously read that, this won’t make as much sense without it). The roots of this expansion perhaps drink from this section. In light of the last two verses, consider this 1842 revelation to NK Whitney, the text of which is likely unfamiliar, but the principle shouldn’t be. It is about joining the cosmological priesthood by experiencing a temple sealing by which he would attain “immortality and eternal life” for himself and for all his “house both old and young because of the lineage of my Preasthood saith the Lord. it shall be upon you and upon your Children after you from generation to generation.” [n1]
19. The priesthood of Moses is the greater priesthood and has the authority to administer the church and opens access to the mysteries and knowledge of God.
20-21. It is in the rituals performed by the priesthood of Moses that the power of Godliness is manifest. Particularly, the rituals of the temple. Just saying.
22. You need to have the priesthood of Moses to see the face of God…like Moses did.
Let’s take another excursion to Nauvoo. Three days before revealing the Nauvoo temple liturgy, which is the foundation for our temple work, JS addressed the Elders of the church. He had addressed the Relief Society a couple days before that and promised them the keys of the kingdom, same as he was going to give to the Elders. Anyway, from the JS diary we have a summary of what he said to the elders:
The keys are certain signs & words by which false spirits & personages may be detected from true.— which cannot be revealed to the Elders till the Temple is completed.— The rich can only get them in the Temple. The poor may get them on the Mountain top as did moses…There are signs in heaven earth & hell. the elders must know them all to be endued with power. to finish their work & prevent imposition. The devil knows many signs. but does not know the sign of the son of man. or Jesus. No one can truly say he knows God until he has handled something. &
thesethis can only be in the holiest of Holies.
What Moses experienced was promised to the Elder’s of the Church and to the Sisters before them (see the April 28, 1842 RS Minutes available at the JSPP website).
23. Now, what was that that Moses wanted to do? Have the people behold God’s face.
24-28. Because of hard hearts, Moses’ priesthood was removed, but Aaron’s remained. For fun check the earliest text for vs. 28.
29. Here we have an introduction of the High Priesthood, i.e., the office of High Priests. Bishops and Elders are appendages of the High Priests.
30. Deacons and Teachers are appendages of Priests. For more on this, see WVS’s 107 review linked above. Though this is more a contextual reading that my Nauvoo translation.
Now we are going to talk about how these priesthoods and their exemplars relate to the temple (remember the Kirtland temple is not in play yet, the focus is on Independence, but again, we are translating that to Nauvoo).
31-32. The sons of Moses, and the Sons of Aaron are to participate at the temple in Zion and thereby be filled with Glory (see vs. 5-6 above; see, this is coming together). Also you people are the sons of Moses and Aaron, in case you were wondering.
Now we get into the nitty gritty of the Oath and Covenant. I’m going to come out and say that the subsequent reading is as though it was pointed toward the Nauvoo Temple and associated Cosmological Priesthood. As we read above (seriously, you need to read the link on cosmological priesthood), JS promised the keys of the kingdom as presented in the temple to both men and women. This should not be a surprise to anyone who has participated in the modern temple, because that is precisely what happens.
33. Those who attain the priesthood of the temple are sanctified unto the renewing of their bodies. Think about the promises of temple as they relate to your body. Also as a fun side note, until 1923 temples used to be places for special healing.
34. Those who go to the temple become the sons (and daughters) of Moses and Aaron, the seed of Abraham, the church and the elect of God.
35-38. Those who go to the temple receive the Father, one might say they enter his presence, and they are given all that the Father has.
40-42. This is the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood. And if you turn from this covenant you will not have forgiveness in this world or the world to come. In Nauvoo, and in association with the temple, JS taught that those who experienced any sealing (including birth in the covenant) were sealed unto eternal life, excepting they sin against the holy ghost. See here.