Moses’ older brother and descendant of Levi (Ex. 6:16–20; 7:7). His name appears twenty seven times in the Doctrine and Covenants, generally in connection with the priesthood (8:6, 7; 13:1; 27:8; 28:3; 68:15–20; 84:18–34; 107:13, 16–17, 69–70, 73, 76, 87; 132:59). Revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants and in the teachings of Joseph Smith clarify many items of priesthood authority and administration pertaining to Aaron and his sons that were divinely established during Israel’s forty years in the wilderness (e.g., Smith, History, 5:257–58; 6:249–51; Joseph Smith, 84–85, 93). Though Aaron’s life is chronicled in the books of Exodus through Deuteronomy, latter-day revelation restores a focus on Aaron beyond the present biblical account.
Aaron is an example of one “called of God” by revelation through a living prophet and ordained to the priesthood with particular assignments in the Lord’s work (Heb. 5:4; cf. D&C 27:8; 28:3; 132:59). He served in positions of leadership among the elders of Israel, including spokesman for Moses, and he, with Moses, Nadab, Abihu, and seventy elders, saw the God of Israel (Ex. 4:10–16; 24:9–11). Later, when most of Israel “hardened their hearts,” the Lord took away the Melchizedek Priesthood from the general population and appointed Aaron and his sons as priests to administer in a lesser authority known as the “Priesthood of Aaron,” or the Aaronic Priesthood. This priesthood continued “with the house of Aaron among the children of Israel until John” the Baptist (84:18–28, 30; 107:13–14).
Aaron was the presiding priest, the high priest of the Aaronic Priesthood, comparable to the presiding bishop in the Church today. Originally the latter-day position was to be hereditary, but in the absence of a qualified “literal descendant of Aaron,” a high priest of the Melchizedek Priesthood may be appointed to hold the keys of that office (68:16–21; 107:13– 17, 69–76).
The Aaronic Priesthood was restored to the earth in this dispensation by John the Baptist on 15 May 1829 (13:1). The unspecified “gift of Aaron,” promised to Oliver Cowdery in 8:6–9, appears to be some object to be held in his hands as an aid to revelation. In a “revelation on priesthood” (84, headnote), the Lord indicates that faithful priesthood holders “become the sons of Moses and of Aaron and the seed of Abraham, and the church and kingdom, and the elect of God” (84:33–34). Notable descendants of Aaron include Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Ezra, Zacharias, Elisabeth, and John the Baptist.