Sunday, February 25, 2007

The Priesthood of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not have a professional, paid clergy. Rather, the leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are selected for the several congregations of the Church throughout the world. Excepting only members of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, all leadership positions within the Church are temporary callings.

Moreover, the Priesthood is more than an organization: It is the authority to act as representatives of Jesus Christ, the authority to officiate and preside within Christ's Church, and the power to perform great works and miracles
We believe that all the Prophets and Apostles of the New and Old Testaments held the Priesthood. But when the world rejected and murdered Jesus' Apostles, the power of the priesthood was lost.
On May 15, 1829, while Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon, he translated a passage which discusses baptism by immersion for the remission of sins. He and his scribe, Oliver Cowdery, went to the banks of the Susquehanna River to inquire of the Lord concerning baptism. In response to their prayers, an angel appeared, identified himself as John, the same that is called John the Baptist in the New Testament who had been resurrected, and bestowed upon Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery the Aaronic Priesthood. This Priesthood holds "the keys of the ministering of angels and the gospel of repentance and baptism by immersion for the remission of sins." (D&C 13:1). The angel also explained that this Priesthood was the lesser of two Priesthoods, but soon the higher Priesthood would be bestowed upon Joseph and Oliver.

Restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood

Soon after the bestowal of the Aaronic Priesthood, Peter, James, and John, as glorified, resurrected personages, appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery and bestowed upon the the Melchizedek Priesthood. (See Hebrews chapters 5-7). And Peter, James, and John also ordained Joseph and Oliver Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ!

Offices Within the Priesthood

All worthy male members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are eligible to receive the Priesthood. When a boy reaches twelve years old, he is a candidate to receive the Aaronic Priesthood. At eighteen, a man is a candidate to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood. But one cannot be ordained to the Priesthood unless he is worthy.
The two Priesthoods are divided into several offices.
Offices of the Melchizedek Priesthood (From most to least authority)
President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
High Priest
Offices of the Aaronic Priesthood

Priesthood Line of Authority
Each holder of the Priesthood of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can trace his authority directly back to Jesus Christ. To illustrate, I will give you my Priesthood Line of Authority:
I, Craig Pankratz, was ordained an Elder by Vernon Marion Pankratz.
Vernon Marion Pankratz was ordained a High Priest by Boyd William Furner.
Boyd William Furner was ordained a High Priest by Wilford Taylor Parkinson.
Wilford Taylor Parkinson was ordained a High Priest by Donald Ellison.
Donald Ellison was ordained a High Priest by Wallace Henry Gardner.
Wallace Henry Gardner was ordained a High Priest by Joseph Fielding Smith.
Joseph Fielding Smith was ordained an Apostle by Joseph F. Smith.
Joseph F. Smith was ordained and Apostle by Brigham Young.
Brigham Young was ordained an Apostle under the hands of the Three witnesses of the Book of Mormon, Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris.
Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris were called to choose the Twelve Apostles, and on February 14, 1835 were "blessed by the laying on of the hands of the Presidency," Joseph Smith, Jr., Sidney Rigdon, and Frederich, G. Williams, to ordain the Twelve Apostles. (History of the Church, Vol. 2, pp. 187-88).
Joseph Smith, Jr. and Oliver Cowdery received the Melchizedek Priesthood and were ordained Apostles under the hands of Peter, James, and John.
Peter, James, and John were ordained Apostles by the Lord Jesus Christ. (John 15:16).


Mark Osler said...

I have to say, the lineage of the priesthood back to Brigham Young and beyond is pretty fascinating-- I would imagine that most Mormons can tell you their lineage in the same manner?

It is interesting that the use of "Priesthood" is similar (but not identical) to the traditional Baptist idea of "Priesthood of the Believer."

Craig Pankratz said...

If a Priesthood holder can't recite to you his Priesthood lineage off, then the lineage contained on the records of the Church. But if after going to the records of the Church he can't trace his lineage, then he doesn't have the Priesthood. (See Ezra 2:61-63).

I'm not familiar with the idea of "Priesthood of the Believer." Could you explain it to me?

Mark Osler said...

The best definition I can find is this, in three parts: First, the priesthood of the believer means each individual person has direct access to God without another person’s intervention. We have access in our prayers and in our faith. We can receive a word, an interpretation, and a decision from the Lord as easily as anyone else. We require no pope, no confessor, no saint of the church, and no president of a convention to guide us into God’s presence.
Second, it means we’re responsible for ourselves--for our salvation, our ethic, and our life-style. I can’t provide for your salvation, and I’m not responsible for your decisions.
Certainly, the church as a whole supports, teaches, and prays for each believer. But, ulti mately no one can coerce anyone into any particular stripe of morality or theology.
Third, priesthood means each of us has the privilege but also bear the pressure of opening the Bible, reading it, and reaching our decisions about what it means as the power of the Holy Spirit gives us direction.

Now, in part because of this doctrine which allows for such individual freedom, people within the Baptist faith tend to interpret it very differently from one another!

Craig Pankratz said...

Prof. Osler,

I'm really enjoying this conversation. What you've just described is very similar to two fundamental concepts of Mormonism: personal revelation and moral agency.

The concept of personal revelation is that each person has the right to direct access to God to receive guidance and direction for himself or herself and over those whom he has authority. That is, a father has the right to receive revelation for himself and his family, a mother for herself and her family. A Bishop has access to God for revelation for himself, his family, and his ward. The President of the Church has access to God for himself, his family, the entire Church, and because we believe he is the mouthpiece of Jesus Christ, for the whole world.

So the concept of personal revelation overlaps with the concept of Priesthood, in that, as men serve within the Priesthood, they receive authority to receive revelation for those over whom they have stewardship.

We receive personal revelation as we faithfully pray and study the scriptures.

The concept of moral agency is identical to the second part of your definition.

Boy the barriers keep crumbling, don't they?

OsoDelSol said...

I think the ability to trace your lineage like that is highly neat.

AZ Public Defender said...

I was ordained an elder by Colin Corbett, who was ordained by Alexander Corbett, who was ordained by the apostle Mark E. Peterson, who was ordained by Joseph Fielding Smith--then follow the same path mentioned before.

Seriously, Craig, you doing some great work here.