In the pre-mortal existence the spirit children of God were organized into a perfect pattern and set in order, even into priesthood orders. This was the master pattern or template from which all dispensations took their appointments. Each dispensation used only a portion of the master pattern, which is why different dispensations do not mirror each other, each differing in what parts of the pattern were appointed to them.
The dispensation of the fulness of times is the dispensation that has the privilege of having the whole, heavenly, master pattern revealed, so that men can live on earth as they once lived in heaven. The dispensation of Joseph Smith is not the dispensation of the fulness of times, as many latter-day saints widely believe. His dispensation is a dispensation of the gospel for the last days and for the last time (see D&C 27:13;112:30), in the which is the dispensation of the fulness of times. The dispensation for the last times was intended to usher in the dispensation of the fulness of times, by beginning the process of gathering in one all the priesthood orders that were had in previous dispensations and all those orders found in the heavenly pattern, but which had never before been revealed. When the whole heavenly pattern has finally been gathered together and revealed in one, in Christ (see Ephesians 1:10), that is the when the dispensation of the fulness of times will begin.
Again, it is the priesthood orders that are being gathered together in one, which includes everything that pertains to them.
Now, all these orders were given a law by which they were to be governed, even the law that God ordained in the pre-mortal existence, and it had certain bounds and conditions. Regardless of which order one pertained to, be it a lesser or a greater order, as long as the law that governed the order was abided, the members of the order would be preserved, perfected and sanctified by the same. This principle is expressed by the following scripture:
And again, verily I say unto you, that which is governed by law is also preserved by law and perfected and sanctified by the same.
That which breaketh a law, and abideth not by law, but seeketh to become a law unto itself, and willeth to abide in sin, and altogether abideth in sin, cannot be sanctified by law, neither by mercy, justice, nor judgment. Therefore, they must remain filthy still.
All kingdoms have a law given;
And there are many kingdoms; for there is no space in the which there is no kingdom; and there is no kingdom in which there is no space, either a greater or a lesser kingdom.
And unto every kingdom is given a law; and unto every law there are certain bounds also and conditions.
All beings who abide not in those conditions are not justified. (D&C 88:34-39)
Every one of us was foreordained to receive everything we could and would receive should we obey all of God’s commands here on earth. But all things here on earth would be given to us by appointment, according to the heavenly pattern and laws given to the individual orders. Should any one of us seek to become a law unto ourselves, without the Lord’s appointment, taking upon ourselves one of these orders, this would break the law of the orders and the wages of such sin would be our lot. Thus, the Lord would have complete control over which orders were set up by His appointment here on earth, and where and when they would be set up, despite our foreordination to receive everything. Without the confirmatory appointment here on earth, our heavenly foreordination did not convey authority to set up any heavenly priesthood order on earth before its appointed time.
Here is another scripture that also expresses this principle:
Behold, mine house is a house of order, saith the Lord God, and not a house of confusion.
Will I accept of an offering, saith the Lord, that is not made in my name?
Or will I receive at your hands that which I have not appointed?
And will I appoint unto you, saith the Lord, except it be by law, even as I and my Father ordained unto you, before the world was?
I am the Lord thy God; and I give unto you this commandment—that no man shall come unto the Father but by me or by my word, which is my law, saith the Lord.
And everything that is in the world, whether it be ordained of men, by thrones, or principalities, or powers, or things of name, whatsoever they may be, that are not by me or by my word, saith the Lord, shall be thrown down, and shall not remain after men are dead, neither in nor after the resurrection, saith the Lord your God.
For whatsoever things remain are by me; and whatsoever things are not by me shall be shaken and destroyed. (D&C 132:8-14)
And thus we see that no one can take upon him/herself an order of the priesthood without an authorizing appointment. To Joseph Smith (and the First Presidency) the Lord said:
And now, verily I say unto you, I give unto you a commandment that you continue in the ministry and presidency.
And when you have finished the translation of the prophets, you shall from thenceforth preside over the affairs of the church and the school;
And from time to time, as shall be manifested by the Comforter, receive revelations to unfold the mysteries of the kingdom;
And set in order the churches, and study and learn, and become acquainted with all good books, and with languages, tongues, and people.
And this shall be your business and mission in all your lives, to preside in council, and set in order all the affairs of this church and kingdom. (D&C 90:12-16)
And how was the church to be set in order? By setting them into priesthood orders.
And so we got many priesthood orders, each of which had a law which governed it, which authorized certain duties, as well as gave limiting bounds and conditions. For example, we got
- the order of Melchizedek, which was after the order of Enoch, which was the Holy Priesthood after the Order of the Son of God (D&C 76:57)
- the Aaronic order (Hebrews 7:11)
- the Levitical order (D&C 107:10)
- the order of the seventies (D&C 107:93)
- the evangelical (patriarchal) order (D&C 107:40)
- the new and everlasting covenant of marriage (D&C 131:2)
- the United Order
and many more orders. Every office and calling and ordinance in the church belongs to a priesthood order and likewise every priesthood quorum. Again, this principle is expressed by a scripture:
Every man in his own order, until his hour was finished, even according as his lord had commanded him, that his lord might be glorified in him, and he in his lord, that they all might be glorified. (D&C 88:60)
It matters not what order you are appointed to and commanded to enter into, for as long as you abide by the law of that order, you will inherit everything you were foreordained to inherit, which is all that the Father has. There should be no envy, whatsoever, between orders, for one order does not save any more or less than any other order.
Jealousy and envy between orders is inspired by the evil one, so that we break the laws of the orders we pertain to and lose our salvation, for any one who breaks the law of their order will be cursed, while all those who abide that law will receive a crown of glory:
For I, the Lord, have decreed in my heart, that inasmuch as any man belonging to the order shall be found a transgressor, or, in other words, shall break the covenant with which ye are bound, he shall be cursed in his life, and shall be trodden down by whom I will;
For I, the Lord, am not to be mocked in these things—
And all this that the innocent among you may not be condemned with the unjust; and that the guilty among you may not escape; because I, the Lord, have promised unto you a crown of glory at my right hand. (D&C 104:5-7)
The above scripture was speaking of the United Order, nevertheless, the principle applies equally to each and every order of the priesthood.
Will there be more orders revealed? Absolutely, until the day when the dispensation of the fulness of times bursts upon us and the complete, heavenly, master pattern is found on earth.
Are the orders independent? No. The bounds of one order extend into the bounds of other orders, either above or below, according to their laws, so that there is a connection between the orders, and a hierarchical order, which may work in reverse depending on conditions. For example, under one set of conditions, one order may take precedence to perform a task, while under a different set of circumstances, the other order may take precedence.
Is it wrong to seek an order to which we have not been appointed? That depends. If the order is open to us, then it is righteousness to seek it and obtain it by our faith. For example, if the endowment, which is another priesthood order, is open to us, then we can seek to be endowed. But if the order is not open to us, then it is not righteousness to seek it. A scriptural example is Alma’s desire to be an angel:
O that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people!
Yea, I would declare unto every soul, as with the voice of thunder, repentance and the plan of redemption, that they should repent and come unto our God, that there might not be more sorrow upon all the face of the earth.
But behold, I am a man, and do sin in my wish; for I ought to be content with the things which the Lord hath allotted unto me. (Alma 29:1-3)
The Lord had appointed to him an order of priesthood and by desiring to go outside of that order and do more, he had sinned, for he had desired something that was not open to mortal men. Nevertheless, Alma was a special case, because his desire was made in faith, believing that the Lord could, and would, grant him what he desired, and so his exceedingly great faith turned a normally sinful desire into righteousness, for the Lord ended up granting his wish by translating him so that he could operate as an angel. Had Alma not desired this in faith, he would have been guilty of envy, but Alma’s faith was absolute and unshaken and whatsoever he asked and desired of the Lord, He believed he would get, nothing doubting. Nevertheless, he still felt uneasy about it for he knew his desire violated the normal, priesthood order laws, for we are to be content with what the Lord grants us.
This same principle can be seen with the Three Nephites who were embarrassed by their desires, for they were desirous to pass the bounds of their order, yet because of their faith, it was accounted unto them for righteousness:
And when he had spoken unto them, he turned himself unto the three, and said unto them: What will ye that I should do unto you, when I am gone unto the Father?
And they sorrowed in their hearts, for they durst not speak unto him the thing which they desired. (3 Ne. 28:4-5)
So we see that some orders are not open to us, yet still may be obtained by our faith. If it is something unattainable by faith, then asking for the thing will be accounted unto us as unrighteousness.
What is our duty as it pertains to the order which has been appointed to us? To magnify the offices, callings, ordinances, duties and orders that pertain to us by sanctifying ourselves before the Lord through faith on the Son of God unto the repentance of all our sins and the reception of the Holy Ghost.