You'll Never See The Scriptures The Same Again!
'In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth'
Take a look at the picture at the top of this page. What do you see? You may see what most would see - Jesus being baptized by John the Baptist. But this iconic image is much, much more than that. In John the Baptist we have the Aaronic Priesthood. In Jesus, we have the Melchizedek Priesthood. This scene, among other things, is a picture of the Higher and Lower Laws and it is found throughout the scriptures.
But let's first take you to the grand event of Moses on Sinai. This is a great place to introduce this principle. When Moses first went up on Mount Sinai, he was given a certain law by God, but not the Law of Moses. At least not only the Law of Moses. Apparently, he was given the fullness of the Melchizedek Priesthood and the laws that govern that priesthood. The Children of Israel were to receive a full restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ- but they didn't. Why you ask? Because they rejected it. We are so used to thinking about the golden calf and the partying (I wonder why) that we dismiss some crucial points in the event. In a sense, the golden calf becomes a decoy to the meat of the story. A slight of hand!
When Moses comes down from Sinai he sees what is happening and takes the tablets of stone and throws them to the ground! (Exodus 32:19) He literally 'breaks the law'! But what law? The Higher Law. The Melchizedek Law. The Lord said that he wanted a 'kingdom of priests' and invited all to 'see the face of God'. This is only possible with the Higher Law and the Melchizedek Priesthood. But the Children of Israel do not want to make this covenant. They choose not to 'see the face of God'. In fact, they reject the Doctrine of Christ! Abinadi teaches us, 'And now, did they understand the law? I say unto you, Nay, they did not all understand the law; and this because of the hardness of their hearts; for they understood not that there could not any man be saved except it were through the redemption of God.' So Moses must return atop Sinai and face God and the consequences. He tells God that he will 'atone' for the Israelites and offers his life for theirs to satisfy the wrath of God. The Lord says no and gives Moses a second set of tablets. Here is how the Joseph Smith Translation presents this:
1 And the Lord said unto Moses, Hew thee two other tables of stone, like unto the first, and I will write upon them also, the words of the law, according as they were written at the first on the tables which thou brakest; but it shall not be according to the first, for I will take away the priesthood out of their midst; therefore my holy order, and the ordinances thereof, shall not go before them; for my presence shall not go up in their midst, lest I destroy them.2 But I will give unto them the law as at the first, but it shall be after the law of a carnal commandment; for I have sworn in my wrath, that they shall not enter into my presence, into my rest, in the days of their pilgrimage. Therefore do as I have commanded thee, and be ready in the morning, and come up in the morning unto mount Sinai, and present thyself there to me, in the top of the mount. (JST Exodus 34:1-2)
Only certain individuals, including a chosen 'seventy', are allowed to go up with Moses again to Sinai. Of course this time, the new set of tablets only has the Lower Law, the Aaronic Law, which in this case is specifically the ten commandments and perhaps the Law of Moses and according to some Jewish teachings, the entire Torah or 5 Books of Moses.
The key to understanding this event, is that there are two laws. One is a 'carnal law', and the other a 'heavenly' or an 'eternal law'. The Lower Law is represented by the Aaronic Priesthood and the Higher Law is represented by the Melchizedek Priesthood. As seen in our picture at the top of the page, here there are also the two laws. One is the Aaronic represented by John the Baptist who can baptize with water, an Aaronic Priesthood ordinance. And there is the Melchizedek represented by Jesus who can baptize with 'fire' and the Holy Ghost, a Melchizedek Priesthood ordinance.
These two laws must co-exist in order for the fullness of the gospel to be learned and practiced. As explained in Sections 84 and 107, the Lower Law is what we do on our end. It's our part of 'at-one-ment'. It is agency, obedience, repentance, speech, prayer, works, etc. And the Higher Law is what God does. It is the sacrifice of Jesus Christ which permits us to exercise faith, it is the Gift of the Holy Ghost, it is grace, mercy and the 'pure love of Christ'.
Throughout the scriptures, these two laws, right from the get-go in Genesis 1:1, play a major part in all the prophets' message to mankind about the gospel. It is everywhere! We see it in the Garden of Eden with the two trees, we see it Lehi's vision of the Tree of Life and the Great and Spacious Building. We see it as the focus of Abinadi's argument with King Noah and his priests, with Jesus HImself in the Sermon on the Mount, and with Paul over and over again. It is played out in the restoration of the gospel through Joseph Smith. It is in the book of Abraham, the Book of Moses and the Doctrine & Covenants. It is a focus for Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lehi, Nephi and all of the prophets. And it is at the center of creation and temple theology. Our weekly sacramental ordinance is a Higher and Lower Law ritual. The division between the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods is a division between the Higher and Lower Laws and the these two laws are at the center of temple worship.