Background on this post
I wish to thank Jahnihah for his essay on priesthood, which made me realize that I had always just accepted the standard definition of priesthood without actually verifying it with the scriptures. I was then inspired to search the Standard Works with priesthood as my research topic, which, I’m embarrassed to say, I had never done before. This post contains the findings of that research.
As a general outline for this topic, I used (loosely) Chapter 13 of the new Melchizedek Priesthood/Relief Society Manual, Gospel Principles. Click the link to compare versions.
What Is the Priesthood?
The priesthood is a language that only God speaks. It is as eternal as God Himself is.
Which priesthood continueth in the church of God in all generations, and is without beginning of days or end of years. (D&C 84: 17)
Priesthood rights “are inseparably connected [to] the powers of heaven” (D&C 121: 36), and thus priesthood is all powerful when spoken. Priesthood possesses the authority (keys) of God, which is recognized by the entire universe as valid in locking (sealing) and unlocking (loosing) all things.
For the firstborn holds the right of the presidency over this priesthood, and the keys or authority of the same. (D&C 68: 17)
Through the priesthood, God created and governs the heavens and the earth.
For behold, by the power of his word [priesthood] man came upon the face of the earth, which earth was created by the power of his word [priesthood]. Wherefore, if God being able to speak [priesthood] and the world was, and to speak [priesthood] and man was created, O then, why not able to command the earth, or the workmanship of his hands upon the face of it, according to his will and pleasure? (Jacob 4: 9)
I am the same which spake [priesthood], and the world was made, and all things came by me. (D&C 38: 3)
By the power (agency) and authority (keys) of the priesthood, the universe is kept in perfect order. Through this God-language, God accomplishes His work and glory, which is “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”
And as one earth shall pass away, and the heavens thereof even so shall another come; and there is no end to my works, neither to my words [priesthood]. For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. (Moses 1: 38-39)
Priesthood is a combination of the spoken (audible) word and a gesture (silent) language. There are three other components to priesthood (to be explained later), which, when present, make it validly “spoken.”
Although the priesthood is a language that only God speaks, He may, and often does, allow worthy sons of His to obtain the right to speak it. Because the priesthood is a language specific to God alone, when men who hold this right speak it with all 5 components, it is as if God himself is the speaker and the very powers of heaven attend to the pronouncement.
What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same. (D&C 1: 38)
And calling upon the name of God, he beheld his glory again, for it was upon him; and he heard a voice, saying: Blessed art thou, Moses, for I, the Almighty, have chosen thee, and thou shalt be made stronger than many waters; for they shall obey thy command as if thou wert God. (Moses 1: 25)
And he shall be thy spokesman unto the people: and he shall be, even he shall be to thee instead of a mouth, and thou shalt be to him instead of God. (Ex. 4: 16)
And the Lord said unto Moses, See, I have made thee a god to Pharaoh: and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet. (Ex. 7: 1)
All priesthood is centered in, comes from, and points to Christ. Christ is known as the Word (the Priesthood), even the Priesthood made flesh.
For in the beginning was the Word, even the Son, who is made flesh, and sent unto us by the will of the Father, And as many as believe on his name shall receive of his fulness. And of his fullness have all we received, even immortality and eternal life, through his grace. (JST John 1: 16)
Christ is the physical embodiment of the priesthood, therefore, as Christ saves all things, the priesthood likewise has as its purpose the salvation of all things. When God confers the rights of the priesthood upon men, it enables them to act in Christ’s name for the salvation of the human family. Through it, they can be authorized to preach the gospel, administer the ordinances of salvation, and teach the members of God’s kingdom on earth, so that they govern themselves.
Again, Christ is the Priesthood, therefore, to receive the priesthood is synonymous with receiving Christ.
And also all they who receive this priesthood receive me, saith the Lord; (D&C 84: 35)
Those who receive the priesthood become like Christ, even priesthood made flesh.
For ye are lawful heirs, according to the flesh, and have been hid from the world with Christ in God— (D&C 86: 9)
And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee above measure, and make thy name great among all nations, and thou shalt be a blessing unto thy seed after thee, that in their hands they shall bear this ministry and Priesthood unto all nations; and I will bless them through thy name; for as many as receive this Gospel shall be called after thy name, and shall be accounted thy seed, and shall rise up and bless thee, as their father; and I will bless them that bless thee, and curse them that curse thee; and in thee (that is, in thy Priesthood) and in thy seed (that is, thy Priesthood), for I give unto thee a promise that this right shall continue in thee, and in thy seed after thee (that is to say, the literal seed, or the seed of the body) shall all the families of the earth be blessed, even with the blessings of the Gospel, which are the blessings of salvation, even of life eternal. (Abr. 2: 9-11; in other words, whoever receives the Priesthood, becoming priesthood made flesh, becomes the seed of Abraham, who was also priesthood made flesh; see also D&C 84: 34)
As Christ is Savior, through the reception of the priesthood, men also become a savior.
Therefore, blessed are ye if ye continue in my goodness, a light unto the Gentiles, and through this priesthood, a savior unto my people Israel. The Lord hath said it. Amen. (D&C 86: 11)
Why Do We Need the Priesthood on the Earth?
We must have priesthood authority (keys) to act in the name of God when performing the sacred ordinances of the gospel, such as baptism, confirmation, administration of the sacrament, and temple marriage. If a man does not have the priesthood, even though he may be sincere, the Lord will not recognize ordinances he performs (see Matthew 7: 21-23; Articles of Faith 1: 5). These important ordinances must be performed on the earth by men who have obtained the rights of the priesthood.
Men need the priesthood to preside in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and to direct the work of the church in all parts of the world. When Christ lived on the earth, He chose His apostles and ordained them so that they could lead His church. He gave them the power and authority of the priesthood to act in His name. (See Mark 3: 13-15; John 15: 16.)
Another reason the priesthood is needed on the earth is to teach the plan of salvation so that we can understand the will of the Lord.
And again, my brethren, I would cite your minds forward to the time when the Lord God gave these commandments unto his children; and I would that ye should remember that the Lord God ordained priests, after his holy order, which was after the order of his Son, to teach these things unto the people. (Alma 13: 1)
Priesthood is also needed to carry out the purposes of God. For example, it is the purpose of God that every husband and father in Israel receive the priesthood, thus becoming like Christ. This benefits the husband/father (as he receives exaltation), as well as his wife and children (as they obtain within their very home a type of Christ, pointing the way to Christ.)
And those priests were ordained after the order of his Son, in a manner that thereby the people might know in what manner to look forward to his Son for redemption. (Alma 13: 2)
It also benefits the world in general, for they, like the wives and children, learn how to be saved.
Now these ordinances were given after this manner, that thereby the people might look forward on the Son of God, it being a type of his order, or it being his order, and this that they might look forward to him for a remission of their sins, that they might enter into the rest of the Lord. (Alma 13: 16)
Also, with the husbands/fathers of Israel as priesthood made flesh (Christ types), God can show forth His arm of power, His wonders, in the eyes of all the nations, as priesthood is “inseparably connected with the powers of heaven” (D&C 121: 36).
Why Do Only Men Obtain Priesthood?
Although this question is not explicitly answered in the scriptures, one implicit reason is that the priesthood is meant to point mankind to Christ. By design, then, one who receives the priesthood not only behaves like Christ, but also looks like Christ. All men, when they grow their hair long and allow their beards to grow full and bushy, bear the image of Christ. The deep voice and manly physique also contribute to the perception that each man is in the similitude of the Son of God. This similitude, coupled with the reception of the priesthood, works upon the hearts and minds of men, women and children and turns their attention to Christ.
How Do Men Receive the Priesthood?
Obtaining the rights of the priesthood is not the same as receiving the priesthood. Let’s talk first about how the rights of the priesthood are obtained.
The Lord has prepared an orderly way for the rights of His priesthood to be conferred upon His sons on the earth. A worthy male obtains the priesthood “by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof” (Articles of Faith 1: 5). Usually, it is only a worthy male member of the church who can obtain the priesthood, but sometimes the priesthood is conferred upon worthy male non-members. Only those who have had the rights of the priesthood conferred upon them can ordain others, and they can do so only when authorized by those who hold the keys (authority) for that ordination.
The first part to receiving the priesthood is obtaining the rights to officiate.
High priests after the order of the Melchizedek Priesthood have a right to officiate in their own standing, under the direction of the presidency, in administering spiritual things, and also in the office of an elder, priest (of the Levitical order), teacher, deacon, and member. An elder has a right to officiate in his stead when the high priest is not present. The high priest and elder are to administer in spiritual things, agreeable to the covenants and commandments of the church; and they have a right to officiate in all these offices of the church when there are no higher authorities present. (D&C 107: 10-12)
This happens by the laying on of hands and requires only that the man being ordained is righteous (worthy), meaning that he is justified (guiltless) before the Lord, being right according to the law of God, having received a remission of his sins.
Using the rights of the priesthood requires more than justification (righteousness).
That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness. (D&C 121: 36)
It also requires purification and sanctification.
Now, as I said concerning the holy order, or this high priesthood, there were many who were ordained and became high priests of God; and it was on account of their exceeding faith and repentance, and their righteousness before God (justification), they choosing to repent and work righteousness rather than to perish; therefore they were called after this holy order, and were sanctified (sanctification), and their garments were washed white through the blood of the Lamb (purification). Now they, after being sanctified by the Holy Ghost (sanctification), having their garments made white (purification), being pure and spotless before God (purification), could not look upon sin save it were with abhorrence (purification); and there were many, exceedingly great many, who were made pure (purification) and entered into the rest of the Lord their God. (Alma 13: 10-12)
When the rights of the priesthood are exercised by a justified (righteous), purified and sanctified (holy) man, the powers of heaven manifest themselves. This is according to the promise of God.
For God having sworn unto Enoch and unto his seed with an oath by himself; that every one being ordained after this order and calling should have power, by faith, to break mountains, to divide the seas, to dry up waters, to turn them out of their course; to put at defiance the armies of nations, to divide the earth, to break every band, to stand in the presence of God; to do all things according to his will, according to his command, subdue principalities and powers; and this by the will of the Son of God which was from before the foundation of the world. And men having this faith, coming up unto this order of God, were translated and taken up into heaven. (JST Gen. 14: 30-32)
A man who has obtained the rights of the priesthood through justification may receive the priesthood itself by purifying and sanctifying himself, through the operation of the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost, because of his exceeding faith, hope and charity. (See Moroni 7.) In this manner, the man becomes like Christ (see Moroni 7: 48) and qualifies himself for receiving the priesthood and being “ordained by the Lord God” Himself, “by the calling of His own voice, according to His own will.”
And it was delivered unto men by the calling of his own voice, according to his own will, unto as many as believed on his name. (JST Gen. 14: 29)
And again, my brethren, I would cite your minds forward to the time when the Lord God gave these commandments unto his children; and I would that ye should remember that the Lord God ordained priests, after his holy order, which was after the order of his Son, to teach these things unto the people. (Alma 13: 1)
Thus, the last part to receiving the priesthood, the bestowal of priesthood power, is solely performed by the Lord and depends upon whether the priest magnifies his calling through sanctification by the Spirit unto the renewing of his body (priesthood made flesh).
For whoso is faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods of which I have spoken, and the magnifying their calling, are sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies. (D&C 84: 33)
Men who receive the priesthood have it confirmed upon them by the Lord’s own voice out of the heavens.
And wo unto all those who come not unto this priesthood which ye have received, which I now confirm upon you who are present this day, by mine own voice out of the heavens; and even I have given the heavenly hosts and mine angels charge concerning you. (D&C 84: 42)
In this way, the Lord reserves to Himself the final ordination necessary for priesthood reception, just as He alone is the one who baptizes with fire and the Holy Ghost.
And it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words unto Nephi, and to those who had been called, (now the number of them who had been called, and received power and authority to baptize, was twelve) and behold, he stretched forth his hand unto the multitude, and cried unto them, saying: Blessed are ye if ye shall give heed unto the words of these twelve whom I have chosen from among you to minister unto you, and to be your servants; and unto them I have given power that they may baptize you with water; and after that ye are baptized with water, behold, I will baptize you with fire and with the Holy Ghost; therefore blessed are ye if ye shall believe in me and be baptized, after that ye have seen me and know that I am. (3 Ne. 12: 1)
All men, then, are “on the same standing” (Alma 13: 5). Those who wish to qualify themselves for reception of the priesthood “on account of their exceeding faith and repentance” (Alma 13: 10) will receive it, while those who “would reject the Spirit of God on account of the hardness of their hearts and blindness of their minds” (Alma 13: 4) will not receive it, though they may have the rights of the priesthood conferred upon them.
We have been told that there are many called to the priesthood, who have obtained the rights to the priesthood, but few among them are chosen to receive it.
Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen?
• • •
Hence many are called, but few are chosen. (D&C 121: 34, 40)
Men cannot buy and sell the power and authority of the priesthood. Nor can they take this authority upon themselves. In the New Testament we read of a man named Simon who lived when Christ’s apostles presided over (served) the church. Simon became converted and was baptized into the church. Because he was a skillful magician, the people believed he had the power of God. But Simon did not have the priesthood, and he knew it.
Simon knew that the apostles and the other priesthood leaders of the church had received the priesthood, for the powers of heaven were manifest among them.
Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done. (Acts 8: 13)
He saw them use their priesthood to do the Lord’s work, and he wanted this power for himself. He offered to buy the priesthood. (See Acts 8: 9-19.) But Peter, the chief apostle, said, “Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money” (Acts 8: 20).
Ecclesiastical Abuse: How the Priesthood Is Misused and What to Do About It
The priesthood is to be used to serve our Heavenly Father’s children here on earth, converting the priest into a servant or minister of all. Priesthood holders should serve in love and kindness, not rule like Gentile kings.
But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. (Mark 10: 42)
Any attempt to convert the minister-servant role of priest into the pomp and prestige of a Gentile ruler by undertaking “to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness” (D&C 121: 37) results in immediate condemnation by the Lord, even if the ecclesiastical abuse is not known or corrected by the church. Ecclesiastical abuse in any form or degree brings immediate damnation upon the priesthood officer and, even before the abuser is aware, he is left alone without the Spirit and subject to the spirit of the devil, to persecute the saints within his congregation, who have been placed within his care and ministry. He then becomes a wolf in sheep’s clothing, fighting against God. (In the view of the abuser, it is the saints who are the wolves and he is doing “God’s work.”)
Those who engage in ecclesiastical abuse will use the high-sounding title of their priesthood office (bishop, stake president, etc.) to engage in power-plays and submission tests to try to force or compel the members of the congregation to submit to their authority and do what they want them to do. They will gratify their pride and label all those saints who resist such tyranny as apostates and accuse them of the sin of rebellion. Ecclesiastical abuse takes many forms, but the following are listed in scripture:
1) undertaking to cover our sins
2) undertaking to gratify our pride
3) undertaking to gratify our vain ambition
4) undertaking to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men
The saints of God within any ward or branch of the church, being sanctified (made holy) by the Spirit of God, naturally resist tyranny in all of its forms. Like captain Moroni, they “seek not for power, but to pull it down” (Alma 60: 36). They do not follow the precepts of men except when those precepts are given by the Holy Ghost. This puts them directly at odds with any ecclesiastical abuser who is a priesthood leader that presides over them. The rank and file (unsanctified) member is accustomed to following the brethren, not the Spirit, and will blindly follow the precepts of men given by an ecclesiastical abuser regardless of whether it is inspired or not. These rank and file members will put the priesthood tyrant on a pedestal, gratifying his pride and vain ambition, covering his sins, and will, like the tyrant, look upon the saints resisting compulsion as disobedient apostates and trouble-makers.
These conditions are to be expected among the church for as long as it remains unsanctified and under condemnation, for “it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion” (D&C 121: 39).
Which vanity and unbelief have brought the whole church under condemnation.And this condemnation resteth upon the children of Zion, even all. And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but to do according to that which I have written— (D&C 84: 55-57)
This means that almost all men who hold the rights of the priesthood, including those who hold leadership positions and high offices, are by nature predisposed to act like tyrants. There are but few (see D&C 121: 40) of the vast ensemble that do not engage in ecclesiastical abuse. It is these few who pattern their lives after Christ, aspiring to be like Him and setting their hearts upon Him. The rest (“almost all men”), which are the many, set their hearts “upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men” (D&C 121: 35). So the church, by and large, is led by ecclesiastical abusers, even tyrants, with the occasional man of Christ appearing among them, yet all these men have obtained the rights of the priesthood.
Because of the nature and disposition of men to be tyrants and the condition of the unsanctified and condemned (damned) church, the saints of God are to follow the admonition of Alma, which is to “trust no one to be your teacher nor your minister, except he be a man of God, walking in his ways and keeping his commandments” (Mosiah 23: 14) and the warning of Nephi:
Cursed is he that putteth his trust in man, or maketh flesh his arm, or shall hearken unto the precepts of men, save their precepts shall be given by the power of the Holy Ghost. (2 Ne. 28: 31)
The Lord has left two means of dealing with ecclesiastical abuse: the law of common consent and the church courts. If there are two or three witnesses to abuse, the procedure described in D&C 42: 78-93 may be used. If there are no witnesses (or no willing witnesses), or if the church court system becomes entirely corrupt because the priesthood leadership will not allow a court to be convened or otherwise impedes the process (undertaking to cover up the sins of their fellow ecclesiastical abuser), the law of common consent can be used to de-fang tyrants. If, however, the law of common consent fails due to rubber-stamping by the general membership, saints of God must resort solely to Alma and Nephi’s counsel, leaving the matter in the Lord’s hands.
Priesthood Organization: An Inverted Hierarchy
A hierarchy is defined as “a ruling body of clergy organized into orders or ranks, each subordinate to the one above it.” It is true that the priesthood is organized into orders and ranks, but instead of rulers, it consists of servants. The Lord’s “rulers” (Abr. 3: 23) are not rulers in the typical sense. They are ministers and servants.
He that is ordained of God and sent forth, the same is appointed to be the greatest, notwithstanding he is the least and the servant of all. (D&C 50: 26)
In a typical rich household, the servants do not get the chief seats, do not get the first meal, are not the ones put up on a pedestal.
Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, saying, The Scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. All, therefore, whatsoever they bid you observe, they will make you observe and do; for they are ministers of the law, and they make themselves your judges. But do not ye after their works; for they say, and do not. For they bind heavy burdens and lay on men’s shoulders, and they are grievous to be borne; but they will not move them with one of their fingers. And all their works they do to be seen of men. They make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, and love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi, (which is master.) But be not ye called Rabbi; for one is your master, which is Christ; and all ye are brethren. (JST Matt. 23: 1-5)
The priesthood is designed to be an inverted pyramd, or inverted hierarchy, with the greatest servants, meaning the meekest, most charitable servants, at the very bottom. These are the least of all the kingdom of God, being servants of all. Thus, the First Presidency is really the Last Presidency, or Bottom Presidency, being below all other presidencies, nevertheless, all priesthood offices and callings are placed by the Lord below, not above, the body of the church (the saints).
And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; (Eph. 2: 20)
Not By Virtue of the Priesthood
By the Lord’s design, “no power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood” (D&C 121: 41), therefore, for instance, when any president or counselor of the First Presidency enters a room full of people or speaks before an audience, he is to be treated as a title-less servant, not as royalty. His words and actions alone are to be taken into consideration, without considering, at all, his priesthood rank. If his words and/or actions are persuasive, long-suffering, gentle, meek, kind and given with genuine love and in pure knowledge, we are to allow them to influence us or to have power over us, otherwise, we are to ignore them. This does him a great service, as people who are treated like royalty eventually begin acting as royalty. This principle applies to every priesthood calling in the church: branch president, bishop, quorum president, high priest group leader, stake president, mission president, area authority, seventy, apostle, First Presidency counselor or prophet. They are all to be treated as if they had no title or office, whatsoever.
The next priesthood body, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, is not below the First Presidency, but above them, in the inverted hierarchy. Yet, the Twelve are still just servants of the church body and are to be treated as such, just like the First Presidency. The difference, though, lies in how the Twelve and First Presidency interact with each other, for the First Presidency is to serve the Twelve and not the other way around.
This pattern of the greater serving those who are lesser is to apply to all quorums of the priesthood, for even as “the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister” (Mark 10: 45), so are holders of the priesthood not to be ministered unto, but to minister, in their respective jurisdictions.
How Do Men Properly Use the Priesthood?
The word “minister” comes from the Latin minister, which means “servant.” Our word “servant” comes from the Old French servir, which comes from the Latin servire, which means “to be a slave” or “to be a servant,” which comes from the Latin servus, which means “slave” or “servant.” The only difference between a slave and a servant is that the servant is engaged in voluntary servitude while the slave is engaged in involuntary servitude. With this in mind, we can think of a servant as a “voluntary slave.” To properly use the priesthood, then, one must consider himself a servant, or voluntary slave, of all and act accordingly. Even when called to preside, the use of the word “president” means, in the vernacular of the Lord, servant (or voluntary slave).
Which ordinance is instituted for the purpose of qualifying those who shall be appointed standing presidents or servants over different stakes scattered abroad; (D&C 124: 134)
This is why the Lord uses the word “yoke.”
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matt. 11: 28-30)
We are yoked (as servants) with priesthood. We are voluntarily enslaved.
Entering the priesthood with the proper mindset requires that one consider himself as nothing (see Mosiah 4: 11), even less than “the dust of the earth” (see Mosiah 2: 25-26). This prepares a man to “enter the priesthood” and not merely “get the priesthood.” Often we speak of the priesthood as something you get, receive, hold, as if it were a thing you could stick in your pocket. It is true that the priesthood is “the gift of God” (see Acts 8: 20), but it is also true that it is an order that is entered into by ordination. “Entering the priesthood” is meant to be a life-changing event, for it is through the priesthood that men can become like Christ, even priesthood made flesh. In that vein, entering the priesthood is synonymous with entering a life of selfless service, in which you use the rights of the priesthood, and the powers of heaven that are inseparably connected to them, to bless and minister to all the living creatures around you, and even to those who have died, through the work for the dead.
Priesthood Is the Antidote to “Natural Man Syndrome”
When priesthood functions as it was intended to function, as a corps of humble servants who are unable to maintain any power or influence by virtue of their priesthood office and calling, because all look upon them as title-less servants and listen to their counsel and follow their examples only to the degree that their counsel and examples square up with the scriptures, priesthood becomes an antidote to the natural disposition that men have to exercise unrighteous dominion upon others. Only when priesthood offices and callings are lifted up in the eyes of the LDS people to the point where they give their leaders special treatment, like royalty, and they heed and “follow the brethren,” their leaders, because they have such high and holy callings, in other words, when the LDS people begin to give more weight to what a General Authority says because he is a General Authority, or more weight to what a stake president or bishop or branch president or any other president says, because of their titular callings, at that point the priesthood ceases to be the antidote and becomes, instead, the poison. When the honors of men are found within the priesthood ranks and men begin to list the high priesthood offices they’ve held as merit badges and honorable ribbons, or as a job resume, it ceases to function as the true priesthood of God and becomes, instead, but a form of godliness, and not the real thing.
At that point, the powers of heaven will have withdrawn from these men and the work of miracles would have ceased. No more angels, no more open visions, no more prophecies and revelations, no more miraculous power manifested.
I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.” (JS-H 1: 19)
False Priesthoods: Royal In Nature
The transformation of the minister-servant status of priesthood into royalty status can be seen by examining how the priesthood operated during the time of Christ and how it has morphed over generations into the Catholic priesthood today. The pope, cardinals and bishops dress, act and are treated as royalty. Mormon priesthood appears to be following the same evolution. Although Mormons don’t, yet, kiss their bishop’s rings (like Catholics do), Mormon priesthood leadership has many of the trappings of royalty, including getting the chief seats, partaking of the sacrament first, having people stand when a GA enters a room, etc.
How Keys are Lost (or Taken Away)
Both Mormon and Catholic priests claim a priesthood line of ordination that leads directly to Peter. In the case of the Catholics, they claim an unbroken line of ordination to mortal Peter, while the Mormons claim an unbroken line of ordination to the angel Peter. Each asserts that they have the keys (authority) of the priesthood, while the others do not. The assertion, then, is that the priesthood of the other church is false because they have no keys. So, by definition, a false priest, even though proper ordination has occurred, is one that asserts to have keys, but in reality has no keys.
A priest’s keys (authority) is immediately lost or taken away when a priest undertakes “to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men” (D&C 121: 37) by virtue of the priesthood. When authority is asserted because of an office of the priesthood, the Lord says, “Amen to…the authority (keys) of that man” (D&C 121: 37).
A man who has obtained the rights and keys of the priesthood, who acts in this manner, loses his keys (or has his keys taken away), becoming a false priest. For example, although the Catholic priests trace their priesthood back to Peter, they are false priests, for they assert their authority by virtue of their priesthood ordination and thus have no keys. They may have had the keys at one time, but due to wholesale, unrepentant, generational corruption, they have since lost them entirely, for you can not pass on what you no longer have.
Mormon priesthood keys can also be just as easily lost. It matters not that one was ordained by someone with real priesthood authority who correctly conferred the rights and keys of the priesthood. Regardless of how correct was the ordination, if priesthood is used contrary to the order of heaven, both the keys and powers of priesthood are instantly lost. With repentence, they can be obtained again, but while a man persists in influencing others by virtue of the priesthood, that man has no valid authority and is a fraud, even a false priest. When that happens, priesthood, in the hands of a false priest, instead of being a great blessing, becomes a curse to the people and church of God.
False priests “teach with their learning, and deny the Holy Ghost, which giveth utterance” (2 Ne. 28: 4), which makes them “false teachers.” It is “because of false (priest) teachers” that “churches have become corrupted” (2 Ne. 28: 12). It is important, then, to be able to discern a false from a true priest/teacher. In this area, Jesus gave us some counsel:
Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore, by their fruits ye shall know them. (3 Ne. 14: 15-20)
This advice equally applies to false priests. Notice that Jesus doesn’t say that “ye shall know them by their improper priesthood ordination.” How they are ordained is not the most important thing in detecting ravening wolves. How they use the priesthood shows them as being true or false priests.
The Priesthood and Women
It is through priesthood that men become exalted, for when they receive it, they receive Christ and the Father and all that the Father has. This is according to the oath and covenant of the priesthood. The doctrine of exaltation requires the union of man and woman in eternal marriage, but men must also receive the priesthood. Women, however, obtain their exaltation by their union with their priest-husband. A priest-husband who has received the priesthood, meaning he has become priesthood made flesh, in similitude of the Son of God, when he “cleaves to his wife,” becomes one flesh with her. In this way, the wife shares in all of the exalting benefits of the priesthood and enters into her exaltation, just as does the husband. This is according to the principle of charity.
The prize is the same for both of them: all that the Father has is given to her husband and to her, for she is one flesh with her husband and he is priesthood made flesh. As he has received the priesthood, and she has become one flesh with him, she has also received the priesthood.
This does not mean that she must perform the ordinances of the priesthood. Each office of the priesthood has duties that vary from another office of the priesthood. A deacon does not do what an elder does. In like manner, a woman, wife and mother has duties different than any of the offices of the priesthood. She is not ordained to these duties like a priest, for her calling begins at her birth. She is given from the start the natural abilities and gifts needed to bear and nurture the souls of men and has no need for priesthood rights to be conferred upon her to magnify her calling. She only needs the saving ordinances of the gospel, including the temple rites, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost, to magnify her calling. Nevertheless, the promise of exaltation lies with the priesthood, and for this matter she must enter into eternal marriage with a man who has received the priesthood and become one flesh with him to obtain her exaltation.
The Lord is merciful to all His daughters, as well to all His sons, and will not allow a disobedient husband who refuses to receive the priesthood to stop a wife worthy of exaltation from receiving it. Nor will He allow a rebellious wife to prohibit her worthy-of-exaltation husband from receiving it. Each man who justifies, purifies and sanctifies himself before God and obeys His commandments, will enter into his exaltation regardless of what his spouse does. The same applies to women.
What Priests Really Hold
Although we “confer the priesthood,” in reality we are not conferring priesthood, but are conferring the rights to the priesthood. The rights to the priesthood are the rights to administer the priesthood, or the rights to officiate in an office of the priesthood, meaning the rights to use the priesthood, or to speak this language of God. (See Abr. 1: 2-3, 27, 31; Abr. 2: 11; D&C 121: 36-37; D&C 107: 10-12.) This pattern also applies to the ordinance of confirmation, in which it is said, “Receive the Holy Ghost!” Are we really bestowing the Third Member of the Godhead upon the newly baptized member? Of course, not. We are merely giving them the gift of the Holy Ghost, which is the right to have the constant companionship of the Spirit.
The Key-words of the Priesthood
Facsimile #2 of the Book of Abraham has the following explanations of figures #3 and #7:
3. “representing also the grand Key-words of the Holy Priesthood”
7. “revealing through the heaven the grand Key-words of the Priesthood”
The Key-words of the priesthood are not some secret, magic words that, once known and spoken, grant the man speaking them unlimited access to the heavens and the powers thereof. They are not secret words known only to the living prophet or Twelve apostles, or to other secret initiates. No, the Key-words of the priesthood is the priesthood itself.
The priesthood is a language that is specific to, and spoken only by, God Himself. It is the original tongue, the mother and father tongue, the words that brought everything into existence, including other languages (the languages of men). The priesthood is the key-words that lock or unlock all things, or seal and unloose all things. These are the words of power (agency), the words of authority (keys). It is through the Key-words (the Priesthood) that every other word of God has come forth. For example, the scriptures found in our Standard Works contain the Word of God revealed through the Key-words (Priesthood) of God.
Joseph added “of the Holy Priesthood” and “of the Priesthood” to his explanation of Key-words, because Key-words is a common term and could refer to many things. So, he added that to indicate or clarify that he was talking of the Priesthood Key-words. The term Key-words itself is used to indicate that the Priesthood is a language which holds authority (keys) in the universe. Joseph says that “all to whom the Priesthood was revealed” have “the Key-words of the Holy Priesthood” revealed (see Fig. 3). So, if you have had the Priesthood revealed to you, then you have also had the Key-words of the Priesthood revealed to you, for they are one and the same.
What Blessings Come When We Use the Priesthood Properly?
Answer: Faith, the presence of God, knowledge of God and exaltation.
Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven. The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever. (D&C 121: 45-46)
The decisions of these quorums, or either of them, are to be made in all righteousness, in holiness, and lowliness of heart, meekness and long suffering, and in faith, and virtue, and knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness and charity; because the promise is, if these things abound in them they shall not be unfruitful in the knowledge of the Lord. (D&C 107: 30-31)
Now, what do we hear in the gospel which we have received? A voice of gladness! A voice of mercy from heaven; and a voice of truth out of the earth; glad tidings for the dead; a voice of gladness for the living and the dead; glad tidings of great joy. How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those that bring glad tidings of good things, and that say unto Zion: Behold, thy God reigneth! As the dews of Carmel, so shall the knowledge of God descend upon them! (D&C 128: 19)
And also all they who receive this priesthood receive me, saith the Lord; for he that receiveth my servants receiveth me; and he that receiveth me receiveth my Father; and he that receiveth my Father receiveth my Father’s kingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him. And this is according to the oath and covenant which belongeth to the priesthood. (D&C 84: 35-39)
Notice, also, that while the gift of the Holy Ghost gives us the right to the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost, receiving the priesthood actually causes the Holy Ghost to be one’s constant companion. The meaning of this is that we become one (united) with God, meaning that we enter into the Godhead. This is according to the Lord’s intercessory prayer. (See John 17.)
Mormon Gentile Priesthood: A Temporary Measure
The priesthood given by God to the Gentile Mormons today is temporary in nature. The first priesthood given, the Priesthood of Aaron, is a modified form of the original Priesthood of Aaron. It has been tailored to fit the conditions (see D&C 46: 15) among the Gentile Mormons and will only remain with them until the Levites begin again to perform the Levitical Priesthood rites.
Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah I confer the Priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; and this shall never be taken again from the earth, until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness. (D&C 13: 1)
The second priesthood given, which is the Melchizedek Priesthood, will remain with the Gentile Mormons only until the restoration of all things, at which point it will be transferred to the tribes of Israel.
Therefore your life and the priesthood have remained, and must needs remain through you and your lineage until the restoration of all things spoken by the mouths of all the holy prophets since the world began. (D&C 86: 10)
So, at some point in the future, the Melchizedek Priesthood will be restored to the tribes of Israel and the Levitical/Aaronic Priesthood will be restored to the Levites and the priesthoods among the Gentiles will be phased out so that Gentiles will no longer be able to obtain priesthood unless they renounce their Gentile status and become numbered with the house (tribes and Levites) of Israel.
Turn, all ye Gentiles, from your wicked ways; and repent of your evil doings, of your lyings and deceivings, and of your whoredoms, and of your secret abominations, and your idolatries, and of your murders, and your priestcrafts, and your envyings, and your strifes, and from all your wickedness and abominations, and come unto me, and be baptized in my name, that ye may receive a remission of your sins, and be filled with the Holy Ghost, that ye may be numbered with my people who are of the house of Israel. (3 Ne. 30: 2)
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