“Every elder, priest, teacher or deacon is to be ordained according to the gifts…of God unto him.”


My text for this post is the part of D&C 20: 60 that says,

Every elder, priest, teacher or deacon is to be ordained according to the gifts and callings of God unto him;

First callings, then ordination, then gifts

We are taught by our leaders that “whom the Lord calls, the Lord qualifies.” This means that the gifts come with, or belong to, the calling. In other words, that once a man is called to an office and ordained, the Lord gives him the gifts necessary to fulfill the duties of that office as long as he magnifies his calling. I have also heard people testify that once released from their callings, these gifts leave them and they are once again just every day members.

In all honesty, I can see how such an interpretation can fit the scripture. All that is required is to read the scripture as if it said, “Every [priesthood office] is to be ordained according to the gifts and callings of God [which will come] unto him [through this ordination].”

First gifts, then callings, then ordination

Another way of reading the scripture is as if it said, “Every [priesthood office] is to be ordained according to the gifts and callings of God [which have already come] unto him.” In this view, God (and man) sees that the priesthood candidate already has all the necessary gifts for one or more offices of the priesthood, so He calls the man to one of those offices and has him ordained.

For the purpose of this post, I am going to take this latter interpretation as my guide and see what picture it paints. I’m not doing this just as a useless exercise, but one based upon historical fact and precedent. For example, if we look at the life of Joseph Smith, we find that his life followed the gifts-callings-ordination order precisely.

Joseph was a prophet, seer and revelator before he was ordained to any priesthood office In fact, he was using a seer stone before he was even called by the Lord to be a seer. So, his gifts came to him first, then he received a calling from the Lord and finally he was ordained to the offices of the priesthood. This same pattern can be found elsewhere in the scriptures.

One gift, church; many gifts, priesthood

And again, verily I say unto you, I would that ye should always remember, and always retain in your minds what those gifts are, that are given unto the church. For all have not every gift given unto them; for there are many gifts, and to every man is given a gift by the Spirit of God. (D&C 46: 10-11)

The Lord has said that “every man is given a [singular] gift.” But He doesn’t expect us to stop at just one. In fact, He has commanded the church to “seek ye earnestly the best gifts [plural]” (D&C 46: 8.) And He has even opened up the possibility of getting every gift.

And it shall come to pass that he that asketh in Spirit shall receive in Spirit; that unto some it may be given to have all those gifts, that there may be a head, in order that every member may be profited thereby. He that asketh in the Spirit asketh according to the will of God; wherefore it is done even as he asketh. (D&C 46: 28-30)

All of the offices of the priesthood require multiple gifts. It takes a lot more faith to obtain many gifts than to obtain just one, therefore the priesthood is designed to be a body of men who have exercised exceedingly great faith. They are “called…on account of their exceeding faith and good works; in the first place being left to choose good or evil; therefore they having chosen good, and exercising exceedingly great faith, are called with a holy calling” (Alma 13: 3). The “good works” of these men is the use of their multiple gifts of the Spirit, for “if there be one among you that doeth good, he shall work by the power and gifts of God” (Moro. 10: 25).

After having obtained several gifts, the Lord calls these men into His priesthood and has them ordained to one of its offices, according to the gifts they have, so that they can more widely use them “for salvation” (D&C 84: 73) and “for the benefit of those who love [Him] and keep all [His] commandments, and him that seeketh so to do; that all may be benefited” (D&C 46: 9), and “in order that every member may be profited thereby” (D&C 46: 29).

A man is ordained in this manner—exceedingly great faith and repentance, good works (working by the power and gifts of God), called by God to an office of the priesthood according to the various gifts he has, and then ordination to the office he’s been called to—”that thereby the people might know in what manner to look forward to [the] Son for redemption” (Alma 13: 2). This manner of ordination also virtually guarantees that “the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven” because no one would be ordained who did not have access to a variety of the gifts of the Spirit and thus to the powers of heaven.

New Testament and D&C 4 qualifications

Before going into an enumeration of the gifts that pertain to each office, let me back up a bit because the New Testament has requirements for priesthood office that precede the gifts.

1 Timothy chapter 3 and Titus chapter 1 give some qualifications for the offices of elder, bishop and deacon. The description is of a righteous, God-fearing, charitable man who has a good reputation in the church and in the community and a well-behaved family. Of particular note is that the elders, bishops and deacons all had to be married men with children.

We typically think of the office of a deacon as the “entry level” position, therefore, the New Testament requirements for a deacon can be extrapolated to all other offices of the priesthood.

D&C section 4 also has a list of qualification for those called to the priesthood, namely that the man should possess faith, hope, charity and love with an eye single to the glory of God.

The list of best gifts

#1.   Personal knowledge of Christ, having seen Him in person.

#2.   Belief in Christ without having seen Him.

#3.   Differences of administration.

#4.   Diversities of operations.

#5.   Word of wisdom.

#6.   Word of knowledge.

#7.   Faith to be healed.

#8.   Faith to heal.

#9.   Working of miracles.

#10. Prophesying.

#11. Discerning of spirits.

#12. Speaking in tongues.

#13. Interpretation of tongues.

#14. Discerning of gifts.

Qualifications of the office of a deacon

1)  Must be a married man with children (per New Testament)

2)  Must pass other New Testament qualifications

3)  Must pass D&C 4 qualifications

4)  Must have best gift #2 (belief in Christ without having seen Him)

5)  Must have best gift #5 (word of wisdom)

6)  Must have best gift #6 (word of knowledge)

7)  Must have best gift #7 (faith to be healed)

8 ) Must have best gift #8 (faith to heal)

The duties of a deacon are listed in D&C 20: 59; 84: 111.

He must have gift #2 because he must be a believer in Christ in order for him to “invite all to come unto Christ.” (It is not necessary that he has seen Christ personally.) He must have gifts #5 and #6 because it is his duty to teach all to be wise and to have knowledge (see D&C 46: 17-18.) He must have gifts #7 and #8 because as a believer in Christ, certain signs will follow him, which include surviving poisonous snake bites and deadly drinks, healing the sick, opening the eyes of the blind, unstopping the ears of the deaf, and causing the tongue of the dumb to speak (see D&C 84: 65-72.)

Teachers are to be assisted in all their duties by deacons, if occasion requires. Deacons can only assist teachers in their duties if they possess the gifts required for the fulfillment of those duties. So, the above list of gifts is the minimum for a deacon.

For example, if a teacher needs assistance in a duty that requires gift #11 and there are two deacons available, one that possesses gift #11 and one that does not, only the one with the required gift can assist.

This creates the need for a deacon to apply himself and seek out the additional gift required to assist teachers in all their duties (gift #11.)

Qualifications of the office of a teacher

1)  Must be a married man with children (per New Testament)

2)  Must pass other New Testament qualifications

3)  Must pass D&C 4 qualifications

4)  Must have best gift #2 (belief in Christ without having seen Him)

5)  Must have best gift #5 (word of wisdom)

6)  Must have best gift #6 (word of knowledge)

7)  Must have best gift #7 (faith to be healed)

8 ) Must have best gift #8 (faith to heal)

9)  Must have best gift #11 (discerning of spirits)

The duties of a teacher are listed in D&C 20: 53-57, 59; 84: 111.

He must have gifts #2, #5, #6, #7 and #8 for the same reasons as a deacon (see above.)

He must have gift #11 because it is his duty to “see that there is no iniquity in the church, neither hardness with each other, neither lying, backbiting, nor evil speaking” (D&C 20: 54). This requires that he be able to discern between lying, evil spirits and contrite spirits.

Qualifications of the office of a priest

1)   Must be a married man with children (per New Testament)

2)   Must pass other New Testament qualifications

3)   Must pass D&C 4 qualifications

4)   Must have best gift #2 (belief in Christ without having seen Him)

5)   Must have best gift #5 (word of wisdom)

6)   Must have best gift #6 (word of knowledge)

7)   Must have best gift #7 (faith to be healed)

8 )  Must have best gift #8 (faith to heal)

9)   Must have best gift #9 (working of miracles)

10) Must have best gift #10 (prophesying)

11) Must have best gift #11 (discerning of spirits)

12) Must have best gift #12 (speaking in tongues)

13) Must have best gift #13 (interpretation of tongues)

14) Must have the Nephite gift of beholding angels and ministering spirits (Moro. 10: 14)

The duties of a priest are listed in D&C 20: 46-52.

He must have gifts #2, #5, #6, #7 and #8 for the same reasons as a deacon (see above.)

Miracles He must have gift #9 in order to perform miracles. Now some may say that a priest does not need to possess this gift to fulfill the duties of his office. But a priest is the first priesthood office that actually performs ordinances of the gospel. Neither a deacon nor a teacher can do that (see D&C 20: 58). A priest, then, represents Jesus Christ Himself when he ordains other priests, teachers and deacons; or when he baptizes; or when he breaks bread, blesses the sacrament and passes it out. And he is to follow the example of the Savior in administering it. Sometimes the Lord used bread and wine that was already available, but other times He miraculously provided these things (see 3 Ne. 20: 3-7.) In the New Testament, He turned water into wine and performed the miracles of the loaves of bread and fishes. The sacrament being a meal, it is not a stretch to see how these miracles can apply to it. Jesus also said that His followers would do the works He did, and greater works also. (See John 14: 12.) So, it seems to me that priests (and all other offices that perform ordinances) need to possess the gift of the working of miracles in order to properly represent the Lord, who is a God of miracles. In this way, the miraculous powers of godliness may be manifest in the ordinances of the priesthood (see D&C 84: 20-21.) Additionally, the priesthood (office of priest) of Aaron “holds the keys of the ministering of angels,” according to John the Baptist (as recorded in D&C 13.) The beholding of angels is linked to, or goes hand in hand with, the gift of miracles (per Moro. 7: 29-37.)

A priest also must have gift #10 because it is his duty to preach the gospel, which is supposed to be preached according to the spirit of prophecy and revelation (see Alma 43: 2), necessitating the gift to prophesy. He must have gift #11 for the same reasons as a teacher and also because it is his duty to baptize only those who have a contrite spirit (see Moro. 6: 2 and D&C 20: 37), therefore he needs the discerning of spirits.

Unlike deacons and teachers, who are standing ministers, meaning that they do not and are not supposed to travel, priests (and all other offices of the priesthood except deacons and teachers) are to travel and preach the gospel, as the Holy Ghost directs them. This means that they may find themselves among people who speak an unknown language. For this reason alone, every priest must have gifts #12 and #13. But even if preaching among a people of a known language, these gifts are needed as a sign to unbelievers (see 1 Cor. 14: 22.)

Like deacons, priests are also given a command to assist, “if occasion requires.” However, unlike deacons, who are to assist teachers in the duties of the teachers, a priest is to assist an elder in the duties of the priest. For this reason, it is not necessary that a priest obtain any more gifts of the Spirit to assist an elder.

Qualifications of the office of an elder

1)   Must be a married man with children (per New Testament)

2)   Must pass other New Testament qualifications

3)   Must pass D&C 4 qualifications

4)   Must have best gift #2 (belief in Christ without having seen Him)

5)   Must have best gift #5 (word of wisdom)

6)   Must have best gift #6 (word of knowledge)

7)   Must have best gift #7 (faith to be healed)

8 )  Must have best gift #8 (faith to heal)

9)   Must have best gift #9 (working of miracles)

10) Must have best gift #10 (prophesying)

11) Must have best gift #11 (discerning of spirits)

12) Must have best gift #12 (speaking in tongues)

13) Must have best gift #13 (interpretation of tongues)

14) Must have best gift #14 (discerning of gifts)

The duties of an elder are listed in D&C 20: 38-45. He must have gifts #2, #5, #6, #7 and #8 for the same reasons as a deacon (see above.) He must have gifts #9, #10, #11, #12 and #13 for the same reasons as a priest (see above.)

An elder must also have gift #14 because “unto such as God shall appoint and ordain to watch over the church and to be elders unto the church, are to have it given unto them to discern all those gifts lest there shall be any among you professing and yet be not of God” (D&C 46: 27).

Qualifications of the office of a seventy

A seventy is an elder (see D&C 124: 138-139), therefore, all the qualifications of an elder also apply to a seventy. The seventy are a group of constantly traveling elders, and are under the direction of the twelve apostles, whereas the normal group of elders are standing ministers that may travel (see D&C 124: 137) as they desire and as the Spirit dictates to them.

During the time of Moses, seventy elders of Israel saw the Lord (see Ex. 24: 9-11.) During the time of Christ, seventy men who were with the Lord in His ministry (in other words, they saw the Lord) were sent out by Him and performed the same work of miracles as the twelve (see Luke 10: 1-20.) So, following the same pattern, a seventy can be required to have gift #1, so as to be an eyewitness.

Qualifications of the office of an apostle

An apostle is an elder (see D&C 20: 38), therefore, all the qualifications of an elder also apply to an apostle. Like the seventy, the apostles are a group of constantly traveling elders.

Also like the seventy, apostles must have gift #1 so that they are eyewitnesses of Christ. (Seventies and apostles are called to be special/especial witnesses of Christ. The only thing that makes their witness “special” or “especial” is that they have personally seen Christ.)

Qualifications of the office of a high priest

High priests have “authority to officiate in all the lesser offices,” therefore a high priest must possess “all the gifts of God which he bestows” (D&C 107: 92) upon the church (all 14 best gifts.) Additionally, the way he receives his calling is different. Whereas all other offices of the priesthood may receive a calling via either angelic ministration or the voice of God to prophets (see Moro. 7: 22-23), a high priest must receive his calling “by [God’s] own voice out of the heavens” (D&C 84: 42).

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 Genesis 14: 29)

Qualifications of the office of a bishop

Bishops typically are high priests who are ordained as bishops, so all the same qualifications of a high priest apply to a bishop. They must possess every gift.

Ordained patriarchs (evangelical ministers) and gifts #3 and #4

Obviously, based upon what a patriarch does, he would need to have the gift to prophesy (gift #10), the gift of the word of wisdom (gift #5) and the gift of the word of knowledge (gift #6). Beyond those three gifts, I leave it to the reader to figure out the rest of the qualifications of a patriarch and also whether the 3rd and 4th gifts fit into any of the duties of the non-high priest offices. (A high priest and bishop who is an ordained high priest must have every gift, therefore, they must have gifts #3 and #4.)

What’s the point?

Obviously, the priesthood isn’t currently ordained this way. It could be, but I doubt that the present church will ever require such qualifications. Finding anyone with even one gift is hard enough, let alone many gifts. It is much easier to call unmarried men and boys according to their age and some standard of “worthiness” than according to the gifts of the Spirit that they possess. Otherwise, we’d have hardly any priesthood holders.

Nevertheless, tribes can ordain as they see fit, regardless of how the church is currently doing it. There may be some gospel-based tribes out there that will require that all candidates possess the necessary gifts prior to being called and ordained to their tribal priesthood. If and when that day comes, “the rights of the priesthood [will again] be inseparably connected with the powers of heaven.”

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