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Priesthood (Mormonism)

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In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS/Mormon), the Priesthood is the authority and power to act in the name of God including the authority to preside over and direct the affairs of His Church and Kingdom. The full title of the Priesthood is the "Holy Priesthood after the Order of the Son of God" and is also referred to as the "Melchizedek Priesthood".

According to the LDS Church all legitimate Priesthood authority and power originates with God. Only God and those to whom He has delegated His authority have the privilege to carry out Priesthood responsibilities and conduct the affairs of His Church and Kingdom. No person can take upon himself God's Priesthood regardless of education, revelation or other circumstances unless that person is specifically called and ordained to the Priesthood by someone who has authority to confer it upon others. Hebrews 5:1,4-6,10 (http://scriptures.lds.org/heb/5) states:

"For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God...And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron. So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee. As he saith also in another place, Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchisedec...Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec."

In regards to Priesthood ordination the 5th Article of Faith of the LDS Church states that:

"[A] man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof."

The Priesthood is conferred on male church-members beginning at age twelve by the laying on of hands of men previously ordained to the Priesthood. Ordination to the Priesthood is based on the recipient's personal, moral worthiness without regard to education or other socio-economic status, and, since 1978, without regard to race. Thus, every worthy, male member is typically ordained to be a priest (in a general sense) and the Church is led by a lay clergy whose members are not paid for their services; the Priesthood is not a profession nor restricted to privileged persons.

There are two branches of the Priesthood known as the Aaronic Priesthood and the Melchizedek Priesthood. The Aaronic Priesthood is a preparatory Priesthood, and is given to men from age 12 onward, and the Melchizedek Priesthood is the "full" Priesthood which is reserved for men over age 18. The Priesthood authorizes an ordained male to perform responsibilities particular to his Priesthood office and calling. Each branch of the Priesthood, Aaronic and Melchizedek, has different offices with different functions and age groups associated with that office. See the table below:

Melchizedek Priesthood
Apostle18 and olderSpecial witness of Jesus Christ and holds all the "keys of the kingdom" to direct the affairs of the entire church. May officiate in all responsibilities and duties of the priesthood.
Patriarch18 and olderMay give patriarchal blessings[?]. Ordain High Priests and all duties of an Elder
High Priest18 and olderMay serve as a Bishop, ordain other High Priests and all duties of an Elder
Seventy18 and olderAssist the Apostles and responsible for missionary work, may serve as general or area authorities. May officiate in priesthood ordinances as directed by presiding authories, ordain other seventies and and all duties of an Elder
Elder18 and olderConfer the Gift of the Holy Ghost ordain other Elders, bless the sick by the laying on of hands and all the duties of a Priest
Aaronic Priesthood
Bishop18 and olderTypically a high priest officiates as a Common Judge in Israel, president of the Aaronic Priesthood at the ward level, and administers temporal and spiritual welfare
Priest16 and 17Prepare and Bless the Sacrament, Baptize, ordain other Priests, Teachers and Deacons and all the duties of a Teacher
Teacher14 and 15Hometeach and all the duties of a Deacon
Deacon12 and 13Pass the Sacrament and collect Fast Offerings

If an adult man joins the Church, he may be ordained (Should he be worthy by the standards given within the scriptures) by those who are in authority to hold of the Aaronic Priesthood and after period of time called to recieve Melchizedek Priesthood (Again based upon worthiness) those who are in authority. In addition to being ordained to a certain office, a male may also be "set apart" to a particular Priesthood calling. For example, men are usually not ordained as High Priests unless they are set apart to a calling which requires that ordination, such as Bishop or High Councilman. Oftentimes, older men are also ordained as High Priests. Each person who holds an office of the priesthood, except Patriarch and Bishop, belong to a priesthood quorum.

See the tables below regarding the callings and Priesthood organizations within the LDS Church:

Priesthood Callings
Apostle, Prophet, Seer and RevelatorDirect the affairs of the entire Church
SeventyAssist the Apostles
Area President or CounselorSeventies assigned to preside over stakes and missions within a certain geographical area
Mission President or CounselorHigh Priests who preside over a particular mission
Stake President or Counselorlocal High Priests who preside over wards within their stake
High Councilmanlocal High Priests who assist the Stake Presidency
Patriarcha local man who is assigned to give Patriarchal Blessings to members within his stake
Bishop/Branch President or Counselorlocal High Priests who preside over local wards/branches. A Bishop is also an office in the Aaronic Priesthood. (congregations)
Temple President or Counselorlocal High Priests who preside over a local temple

General Authorities
The First Presidency:
The President and Prophet of the Church, 1st Counselor and 2nd Counselor
The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles[?]:
President, 1st Counselor, 2nd Counselor and nine other Apostles
Quorums of the Seventy[?]
The Seven Presidents of the Seventy and several dozen Seventies
First Quorum of the SeventySecond Quorum of the Seventy
Area Presidencies:
Presidents and 1st and 2nd Counselors are filled by Seventies
Local Authorities
Third, Fourth and Fifth Quorums of the Seventy (Area Authority Seventies)Temple Presidencies
Stake Presidencies and High CouncilsMission Presidencies
Ward Bishoprics or Branch PresidenciesElders QuorumsHigh Priest Group
Deacons QuorumsTeachers QuorumsPriest Quorums

Table of contents

Priesthood Succession

Latter-Day Saints believe that ancient prophets and apostles conferred the Priesthood directly upon Joseph Smith and other early members of the LDS Church. The conferral of the Aaronic Priesthood on Joseph Smith Oliver Cowdery is recorded in Joseph Smith - History as follows:

Restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood

"[W]e. . . went into the woods to pray and inquire of the Lord respecting baptism for the remission of sins, that we found mentioned in the translation of the plates[, The Book of Mormon]. . . . While we were thus employed, praying and calling upon the Lord, a messenger from heaven descended in a cloud of light, and having laid his hands upon us, he ordained us, saying:

"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.

"He said this Aaronic Priesthood had not the power of laying on hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, but that this should be conferred on us hereafter; and he commanded us to go and be baptized, and gave us directions that I should baptize Oliver Cowdery, and that afterwards he should baptize me.

"Accordingly we went and were baptized. . . .

"The messenger who visited us on this occasion and conferred this Priesthood upon us, said that his name was John, the same that is called John the Baptist in the New Testament, and that he acted under the direction of Peter, James and John, who held the keys of the Priesthood of Melchizedek, which Priesthood, he said, would in due time be conferred on us, and that I should be called the first Elder of the Church, and he (Oliver Cowdery) the second. . . .

"Immediately on our coming up out of the water after we had been baptized, we experienced great and glorious blessings from our Heavenly Father. No sooner had I baptized Oliver Cowdery, than the Holy Ghost fell upon him, and he stood up and prophesied many things which should shortly come to pass. And again, so soon as I had been baptized by him, I also had the spirit of prophecy, when, standing up, I prophesied concerning the rise of this Church, and many other things connected with the Church, and this generation of the children of men. We were filled with the Holy Ghost, and rejoiced in the God of our salvation."

Restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood

Not all of the revelations which Joseph Smith received have been fully recorded in public. The restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood is one instance of this. However, this event and many others is alluded to in Doctrine & Covenants[?] section 128:20-21 (http://scriptures.lds.org/dc/128):

And again, what do we hear?...The voice of Peter, James, and John in the wilderness between Harmony, Susquehanna county, and Colesville, Broome county, on the Susquehanna river, declaring themselves as possessing the keys of the kingdom, and of the dispensation of the fulness of times! And again, the voice of God in the chamber of old Father Whitmer, in Fayette, Seneca county, and at sundry times, and in divers places through all the travels and tribulations of this Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints! And the voice of Michael, the archangel; the voice of Gabriel, and of Raphael, and of divers angels, from Michael or Adam down to the present time, all declaring their dispensation, their rights, their keys, their honors, their majesty and glory, and the power of their priesthood; giving line upon line, precept upon precept; here a little, and there a little; giving us consolation by holding forth that which is to come, confirming our hope!

Restoration of other Priesthood Keys (Authority and Power)

In addition to the restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood, additional Priesthood authority and power (sometimes referred to as "keys") were conferred on Joseph Smith and others. In Doctrine & Covenants[?] section 110:11-16 (http://scriptures.lds.org/dc/110) Joseph received the following divine ministration at the dedication of the first LDS temple, the Kirtland Temple:

After this vision closed, the heavens were again opened unto us; and Moses appeared before us, and committed unto us the keys of the gathering of Israel from the four parts of the earth, and the leading of the ten tribes from the land of the north. After this, Elias appeared, and committed the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham, saying that in us and our seed all generations after us should be blessed. After this vision had closed, another great and glorious vision burst upon us; for Elijah the prophet, who was taken to heaven without tasting death, stood before us, and said: Behold, the time has fully come, which was spoken of by the mouth of Malachi?testifying that he [Elijah] should be sent, before the great and dreadful day of the Lord come ? To turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers, lest the whole earth be smitten with a curse ? Therefore, the keys of this dispensation are committed into your hands; and by this ye may know that the great and dreadful day of the Lord is near, even at the doors.

The Priesthood key conferred from Elijah on Joseph Smith is particularly important. This Priesthood is the "sealing" power that Latter-Day Saints use in their temples to "seal" husband and wife and parents to children as families in this life and the afterlife.

Restoration of Priesthood needed because of the Great Apostasy

While other Christian denominations may claim to have legitimate Priesthood authority, the LDS Church claims sole succession to the Priesthood. The LDS Church claims Priesthood succession was broken during the Great Apostasy and later restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith. Catholic and Orthodox Christians deny that such a complete apostasy ever took place when defending the validity of their priesthoods, and do not recognize the LDS priesthood.

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