I’ve fallen behind in this series; my apologies to anyone who might have been skimming through them in preparation for teaching. I intend to resume and catch up for the sake of completeness, even though the moment has passed …
Lesson 25: Priesthood: “The Power of Godliness”
1934: Missionary Sunday School Lessons
Lesson 31: Priesthood
“Ordination of men to the ministry, as sanctioned by scriptural precedent and established by direct revelation of God’s will, is to be effected through the gift of prophecy and by the imposition of hands of those who are in authority.” – Talmage, Articles of Faith, p. 182.
“And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” – Matthew 16:19.
“And as I said unto mine apostles, even so I say unto you, for you are mine apostles, even God’s high priests; ye are they whom my Father hath given me; ye are my friends; Therefore, as I said unto mine apostles I say unto you again, that every soul who believeth on your words, and is baptized by water for the remission of sins, shall receive the Holy Ghost.” – Doctrine and Covenants 84:63, 64.
Because of the apostasy, it was necessary that the priesthood, or the authority to act in the name of deity, be restored. This restoration “was effected by the Lord through the prophet Joseph Smith, who, together with Oliver Cowdery, in 1829, received the Aaronic priesthood under the hands of John the Baptist: this lesser or Aaronic priesthood consists of deacons, teachers and priests, and “holds the keys (authority) of the ministering of angels, and the authority to attend to the outward ordinances, the letter of the gospel.” In the ward, it is presided over by the bishopric: and in the church as a whole, by the Presiding Bishop and his two counselors.
The Melchizedek priesthood was restored “under the hands of the former-day apostles, Peter, James, and John; it includes elders, seventies, high priests, patriarchs or evangelists, and apostles. “Its special functions lie in the administration of spiritual things, comprising the keys of all spiritual blessings of the church, the right ‘to have the heavens opened unto them (the bearers of the priesthood), to commune with the general assembly of the church of the First-born, and to enjoy the communion and presence of God the Father, and Jesus the mediator of the new covenant.’” See Section 107 of the Doctrine and Covenants; also, Talmage, Articles of Faith, pp. 198-216.
Men are called to the priesthood with divine authority and by revelation. Jesus chose his disciples, they did not choose him. John had already been “sent to baptize with water” (John 1:33) by the same heavenly messenger who told him how he should recognize Jesus. The calling of Barnabas and Paul is related in Acts 13:2, 4: “the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost. * * *”
Those called to the priesthood are given authority to act in the name of the Lord. Jesus called his disciples, instructed them as to the nature of their ministry (Matthew 10), gave them authority, and promised them the further guidance of the Spirit. After His death, the gift of the Holy Ghost was given by baptism and the laying on of hands (Acts 2:38), and in our day, the same power of conferring the Holy ghost has been conferred on men holding the priesthood (D. and C. 84:64).
Unauthorized ministrations are rejected of the Lord. Ordinances performed in the name of the Lord, but without authority, are mere forms and displeasing to the Lord. Certain jews, who had witnessed the miracles performed by Paul in the name of the Lord, “took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth. * * * And the evil spirit answereth and said, Jesus I know and Paul I know; but who are ye? And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them. * * *” Acts 19:133, 16.
1934: Gospel Doctrine
Lesson 38: Revelation on Priesthood – Section 107
I. The Two Grand Divisions of the Priesthood. Note 1.
a. The Melchizedek Priesthood, and why it is so called. (Verses 1-4.)
b. The Aaronic, includes the Levitical (Verses 1, 6.)
c. All authorities (offices) are appendages to the Melchizedek Priesthood. (Verse 5.) Note 2.
II. Offices in the Melchizedek Priesthood. Note 3.
a. The Melchizedek Priesthood holds the right of presidency over all the offices and spiritual blessings. (Verses 8, 9, 18, 19.)
b. The First Presidency. (Verses 21, 22, 65, 66, 79, 91, 92.)
c. The Twelve Apostles. (Verses 23, 24, 33, 35, 38, 39, 40, 58.)
d. Duties of High Priests. (Verses 10, 17.)
e. Evangelical ministers (Patriarchs) (Verses 39-57.)
f. Duties of the Seventy. (Verses 25, 26, 34, 38, 93, 98.)
g. Duties of Elders. (Verses 11, 89, 99.)
III. Offices in the Aaronic Priesthood. Note 4.
a. Office and calling of the Bishop. (Presiding and local.) (Verses 16, 17.)
1. Presiding Bishop holds keys of Aaronic Priesthood. (Verses 15, 20.)
2. If he is a literal descendant of Aaron he may claim his anointing. (Verses 16, 17, 69-70.)
3. He is to administer in temporal things. (Verse 68.)
4. He is a judge in Israel. (Verses 72-75.)
5. He has power to judge the President of the High Priesthood in case of such a trial. (Verses 76, 82-83.)
IV. High Councils and Decisions of Councils.
a. The Traveling High council. (Verses 36-37.)
b. Standing High councils – or Stake high Councils. (Vers 37.)
c. The First Presidency as a council. (Verses 78-80.)
d. Divisions of these councils. (Verses 77-80.)
e. No member or officer of the Church exempted from the justice and laws of God. (Verse 84.)
1. Speaking of the Priesthood the Prophet Joseph Smith has said:
“The Priesthood was first given to Adam; he obtained the First Presidency, and held the keys of it from generation to generation … The Priesthood is an everlasting principle, and existed with God from eternity, and will to eternity, without beginning of days or end of years. The keys have to be brought from heaven whenever the Gospel is sent. When they are revealed from heaven, it is by Adam’s authority.” (Hist. of the Church, Vol. 3:385.)
In the Doctrine and Covenants, Sec. 78 we also read:
“That you may come up unto the crown prepared for you, and be made rulers over many kingdoms, saith the Lord God, the Holy One of Zion, who hath established the foundations of Adam-ondi-Ahman; who hath appointed Michael your prince, and established his feet, and set him upon high, and given unto him the keys of salvation under the counsel and direction of the Holy One, who is without beginning of days or end of life.” (Verses 15-16.)
“There are two Priesthoods spoken of in the Scriptures, viz., the Melchizedek and the Aaronic or Levitical. although there are two Priesthoods, yet the Melchizedek Priesthood comprehends the Aaronic or Levitical Priesthood, and is the grand head, and holds the highest authority which pertains to the Priesthood, and the keys of the Kingdom of God in all ages of the world to the latest posterity on the earth, and is the channel through which all knowledge, doctrine, the plan of salvation, and every important matter is revealed from heaven.
“Its institutions were prior to ‘the foundation of this earth, or the morning stars sang together, or the Sons of God shouted for joy,’ and is the highest and holiest Priesthood, and is after the order of the Son of God, and all other Priesthoods are only parts, ramifications, powers and blessings belonging to the same, and are held, controlled, and directed by it. It is the channel through which the Almighty commenced revealing hsi glory at the beginning of the creation of this earth, and through which He has continued to reveal himself to the children of men to the present time, and through which he will make known his purposes to the end of time.
“Commencing with Adam, who was the first man, who is spoken of in Daniel as being the ‘Ancient of Days,’ or in other words, the first and oldest of all, the great, grand progenitor of whom it is said in another place he is Michael, because he was the first and father of all, not only by progeny, but the first to hold the spiritual blessings, to whom was made known the plan of ordinances for the salvation of his posterity unto the end, and to whom Christ was first revealed, and through whom Christ has been revealed from heaven, and will continue to be revealed from henceforth, Adam holds the keys of the dispensation of the fulness of times; i.e. the dispensation of all the times that have been and will be revealed through him from the beginning to Christ, and from Christ to the end of all the dispensations that are to be revealed.” – Joseph Smith, the Prophet (History of the Church 4:207-8.)
Priesthood is nothing more or less than the power of God delegated to man by which man can act in the earth for the salvation of the human family, in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost; not assuming the authority, nor borrowing it from generations that are dead and gone, but authority that has been given in this day in which we live, by ministering angels direct from the presence of God.” – President Joseph F. Smith.
The Priesthood here discussed was called anciently “the Holy Priesthood after the Order of the Son of God.” It was later called the Melchizedek Priesthood after Melchizedek, king of Salem who was a great High priest, to avoid the too frequent repetition of the name of the Lord. This Priesthood circumscribes and embraces all Priesthood, or authority in the Church. In the days of Moses the Lord bestowed upon Aaron and his sons and upon the men of the tribe of Levi, authority to officiate in temporal things and ordinances of the preparatory gospel. Before that time all matters of a temporal nature were conducted under the Melchizedek Priesthood. (See Lesson 29.)
2. The Lord here definitely declares that all authorities or offices, are appendages to the Melchizedek Priesthood. Every man ordained receives the Priesthood and the office which he receives grows out of the Priesthood. Commenting on this principle, President Joseph F. Smith has said:
“There is no office growing out of this Priesthood that is or can be greater than the Priesthood itself. It is from the Priesthood that the office derives its authority and power. No office gives authority to the Priesthood. No office adds to the power of the Priesthood. But all offices in the Church derive their power, their virtue, their authority from the Priesthood. If our brethren would get this principle thoroughly established in their minds, there would be less misunderstanding in relation to the functions of government in the Church than there is.” – “Gospel Doctrine,” p. 184.)
For a discussion of the various offices of the Melchizedek Priesthood and the Aaronic Priesthood, see “Outlines of Ecclesiastical History,” by B.H. Roberts, pages 339-350, and 365-381; “the Compendium,” Article on “The Holy Priesthood,” Keeler’s “Priesthood and church government,” and “Gospel Doctrine,” chapter on “Priesthood.” The offices in the Priesthood and the duties of officers have been discussed by the Authorities of the church for over one hundred years and can be found in many of the published writings. A careful reading of this section (107) also sections 20, 68 and 84, will help in the discussion of the duties and callings of the various officers of the Church. For convenience in this study the several paragraphs in the section under consideration have been grouped under the topic headings; thus, referring to the duties of the Seventies, see f. under topic II:
3. The Lord says, “Of necessity there are presidents, or presiding officers growing out of, or appointed of or from among those who are ordained to the several offices in these two priesthoods.” (Verse 21.) If there were no presiding officers there could be no organization and hence no Church. However, any man holding the Priesthood who is willing to magnify his calling and perform his duty as a faithful member of the Church, even though he is not called to some presiding responsibility, may receive the fulness and in eternity become a son of God possessing all that the Father has.
Three High Priests form the First Presidency, the presiding quorum in the Church. The power of presidency is vested in these three and they have authority to receive the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. The President of the church has vested in him the fulness of the Priesthood, and all the keys of authority over the Priesthood. He alone holds the sealing power in its fulness, and he delegates that authority to others. (See Section 132:7.)
The Twelve Apostles form the second quorum in authority in the Church. They have delegated to them the duty and responsibility to preach the gospel, and to see that it is taught in all the world. The Apostles constitute the traveling High council of the Church. It is their duty, under the First Presidency, to ordain Patriarchs and to set in order all the other officers of the church. (Verses 39, 58.) They constitute the quorum of special witnesses for Jesus Christ and it is their duty to testify of him by the power of the Holy Ghost in all the world.
Evangelists are Patriarchs and they hold the right to bless and pronounce by the spirit of revelation the lineage of members of the church. Patriarchs do not hold authority by virtue of their office to perform marriages for time and for eternity. The keys of that power are vested solely in the President of the Church, and no one has authority to officiate in this ordinance except he receives the delegated authority from the one who holds the keys of this power. (Section 132:7.) This Patriarchal Priesthood was the order of Priesthood from Adam to Abraham. (See verses 40-56.)
There is in the Church the office of patriarch to, or of, the Church, frequently designated the “Presiding” Patriarch. This office was first conferred upon Joseph Smith, Sen., in this dispensation, and was given to him by revelation and right of lineage. This office by divine appointment comes down by lineage and rightfully belongs to the family of Hyrum, son of Joseph Smith, Sen., and descends by the law of primogeniture. Joseph, son of Israel, because of the transgression of his older brethren, received this birthright, and it was conferred upon his son ephraim, and has continued down through that lineage.
The duty of the High Priests and elders is to labor in the organized stakes of Zion. From the High Priests come the presiding officers in the Church. The Seventies are the missionaries of the Church, and they are to be called to this labor “instead of (i.e. in preference to) any others.”
4. The first Bishops were called at an early day in the church. The Presiding Bishop, if he is a literal descendant of Aaron, as has the “Presiding” Patriarch, has a legal right to the office. He must be the firstborn among the sons of Aaron. “For the firstborn holds the right of the presidency over this priesthood, and the keys of authority of the same.” (Section 86:16-18.) If a man could prove by lineage4 or revelation that he is the first born of Aaron by lineage, he could claim his anointing, but he would have to be worthy, and his anointing, or ordination, would have to be done under the hands of the Presidency of the Church. Since High Priests may officiate in all the ordinances of the Gospel, they can officiate as Bishops, when they are called and ordained by proper authority to that office.
The Bishop is a common judge in Israel, and members are amenable to his jurisdiction. In case of an accusation made against one of the First Presidency, the case would be tried before the Presiding bishop and a council of High Priests. (See Lesson 26 for further details.)
There are several councils in the Church. The traveling High council has jurisdiction in all the world. The High Councils in stakes have jurisdiction in a judicial way in the Stakes. The First Presidency may sit as an appellate council, and their decision is final. The Church is so organized that no member or officer, from the President to the last member received, is “exempted from the justice and the laws of God.” The special court, or council, presided over by the Presiding Bishopric has been called into existence several times. The Prophet Joseph Smith was tried before this council on charges made against him by Elder Sylvester Smith after the return of Zion’s Camp. Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer and Frederick G. Williams were each tried by this tribunal.
1934: Gospel Doctrine
Lesson 39: The Restoration of the Priesthood – Sections 109-110
I. Dedication of the Kirtland Temple. (Section 109.) Note 1.
a. The Prayer of dedication.
b. Why the Kirtland Temple was built. Note 2.
1. For the giving of endowments.
2. A place for the School of the Prophets.
3. A House of the Lord for the restoration of keys.
II. The Coming of the Lord Suddenly to His Temple. (Section 110. Note 3.
a. Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery retire behind the veil to the pulpit. (Foreword.)
b. The appearing of the Lord who ministers to them. (Verses 107.)
c. Promised blessings. (Verses 8-10.)
III. The Coming of Moses. Note 4.
a. The mission of Moses anciently.
b. Moses’ appearance to Peter, James and John.
c. The restoration of the keys of gathering of Israel.
IV. The Coming of Elias. Note 5.
Elias held keys of dispensation of Abraham. (Verse 12.)
b. Through the restoration of these keys Abraham’s blessings were conferred in this dispensation.
V. The Coming of Elijah. (Verses 13-16.)
a. Elijah and his authority.
b. Malachi’s prphecy fulfilled.
c. The time is fully come for the turning of the hearts of the children to their fathers and the fathers to the children.
d. Keys of Elijah’s dispensation committed to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery.
e. This restoration given as a sign that the great and dreadful day of the Lord is near, even at the doors. Note 6.
1. On Sunday, M arch 27, 1836, the Kirtland Temple was dedicated. The Lord had commanded the Saints to build this house. “In the which house” he said, “I design to endow those whom I have chosen with power from on high.” (Sec. 95:8.) In the multiplicity of duties and cares the Saints had not made the haste the Lord felt was necessary. The endowment to be given was very urgent, for the harvest was great and the laborers few, and the time short in which to do the reaping. Moreover, the elders were not fully prepared by authority and knowledge to go forth into the world until this endowment was given. The Lord said:
“For ye have sinned against me a very grievous sin, in that ye have not considered the great commandment in all things, that I have given unto you concerning the building of mine house;
“For the preparation wherewith I design to prepare mine apostles to prune my vineyard for the last time, that I may bring to pass my strange act, that I may pour out my spirit upon all flesh –
“But behold, verily I say unto you, that there are many who have been ordained among you, whom I have called but few of them are chosen.
“They who are not chosen have sinned a very grievous sin, in that they are walking in darkness at noon-day. (See Sections 88:119 and 95:3-6.)
Again the Lord said: “Verily I say unto you, it is expedient in me that the first elders of my church should receive their endowment from on high in my house, which I have commanded to be built unto my name in the land of Kirtland.” (Sec. 105a;33.) Therefore when the house was built and dedicated this endowment was given, but it was not as full and complete as the endowment given in Nauvoo and since, for knowledge had not at that time been revealed concerning the endowment in its fulness. However it was sufficient to give power to the elders who were to go forth preaching the Gospel.
This house was also built so that there could be a place where the School of the Prophets could be held, and where instruction could be given. The upper story was built into class rooms where the various quorums assembled to be taught.
The most important reason for the Kirtland temple was that there should be a House of the Lord where he could come and where the prophets from the beginning could come and restore their keys. The Lord has made it known that keys of dispensations should be restored and conferred in Temples built to his name. Only in the poverty of the people, and when necessity requires restoration of authority, can that be done outside of the House of the Lord. (See Sec. 124: 28-30, 34-40.) John the Baptist, Peter, James and John, and others had to make of the wilderness a Temple for the restoration of their authority, but after the building of the Kirtland Temple keys of authority were revealed therein.
3. The Lord said through Malachi that the Lord of hosts should come suddenly to his Temple as a refiner, and he would purge the sons of Levi, and the offering of Judah eventually would be pleasant as in former years. (Mal. 3:1-4.) The Lord came suddenly to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in the Kirtland temple, accepted that house and ministered unto them. The description of him which they give compares with that given by John on Patmos. He pronounced himself as Jehovah, the First and the Last, their advocate with the Father, and promised to show himself unto his servants if they would not pollute his holy house, which, it is sad to say, within a very short time, some of these servants did pollute so that this temple was rejected of the Lord as a house built to his holy name. However, at this time he did bless Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery and accepted the labors of the Saints in the building of this Temple.
4. At the close of this vision Moses appeared before them and conferred upon them his keys saying that he committed to them 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.” These keys were conferred upon Moses in the land of Midian when he was sent by the Great I AM, to deliver Israel from Egyptian bondage. Moses led Israel into the land given to Abraham as an everlasting inheritance for himself and posterity. In the days of our Lord’s ministry Moses also came with Elias and with Christ on the mount of transfiguration and gave to Peter, James and John these same keys for the gathering of Israel in the dispensation of the Meridian of Time. Without the restoration of these keys Israel could not have been gathered, and it was also a part of the plan of restoration of all things for Moses to come in the dispensation of the Fulness of Times with these important keys. Since that coming Israel has been gathered out from among the nations, and the Jews are returning to Palestine, and the coming of the ten tribes from the north, which is yet future, surely must also come to pass.
5. The Lord has not revealed definitely to us the identity of Elias who lived in the days of Abraham, and for our purpose it is needless at this time to speculate over the question. Elias held the keys of that dispensation, hence was before Abraham. The keys he bestowed were the keys embracing the promises and covenants the Lord made with Abraham pertaining to the blessings of his posterity and all nations after him. The Lord promised Abraham that all who received the gospel from that time henceforth should be numbered as his seed, and his blessings would be given them. Through the coming of Elias these blessings are renewed in this dispensation.
6. Elijah lived in the days of Ahab, king of Israel. After the appearing of Elias with the keys, Elijah came in fulfillment of the prediction made by Malachi, that the hearts of the fathers should be turned to the children and the hearts of the children to the fathers, lest the whole earth be smitten with a curse when the great and dreadful day of the Lord should come. T7he reason for the coming of Elijah is that he held the fulness of the power of the Priesthood which included the binding and sealing authority which is exercised in the Temples. The Prophet Joseph Smith has said:
“Elijah was the last prophet that held the keys of the Priesthood, and who will, before the last dispensation, restore the authority and deliver the keys of the Priesthood, in order that all the ordinances may be attended to in righteousness. … Why send Elijah? Because he holds the keys of the authority to administer in all the ordinances of the priesthood; and without the authority is given the ordinances could not be administered in righteousness.’ (Hist. of the Church 4:211.)
There have been many peculiar ideas expressed concerning Elijah and his authority. Some have thought that he performed ordinance work for the dead in his day, but this is not so. There was no work performed for the dead until after Christ bridged the gulf and opened the doors to those who were in darkness. Elijah’s authority was the power to seal and bind both in heaven and on earth. In other words the fulness of the Priesthood. He had to come and place the seal upon all the work in this dispensation which had been done before he came and upon all that should be performed after. The keys which he held are conferred upon the President of the Church, and upon him alone, and there is but one at a time who holds them, except in the case of Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, who, as the two witnesses appointed of the Lord, held all keys jointly, until Oliver lost his authority through transgression. The Prophet has said: “If a man gets the fulness of the priesthood of God, he has to get it in the same way that Jesus Christ obtained it, and that is by keeping all the commandments and obeying all the ordinances of the house of the Lord.” (Hist. of the Church 5:424.) it would be well for us all to remember this, for there are many, without doubt, in the church who apparently think that they can obtain this fulness without obeying the commandments and obtaining the covenants of the house of the Lord. Since Elijah held this sealing power, or fulness of the Priesthood, when he came to Peter, James and John and restored it, they had power toe exercise that same authority. So, also, when he came to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, and gave them the authority which he held, they had power to seal on earth and in heaven. More especially does this Priesthood apply to the ordinances in the Temples of the Lord, and since the sealing power is here, and the same ordinances have to be performed for the dead as for the living, those who hold these keys in this dispensation have the authority to delegate that authority to others so that they may perform all the ordinances both for the living and for the dead, in the Temples, since the Savior has opened the prison doors so that the prisoners may go free. It has been said that Elijah held a peculiar position between the living and the dead because he was translated, but this is not so, an more than John the Revelator or the three Nephites would hold such a peculiar position. Moreover, when Elijah came to Joseph Smith he was not a translated being, but had passed through the resurrection and had obtained his celestialized body, for he was with Christ in his resurrection, the Lord has revealed.
Alfred Edersheim, in his book, “the Temple,” speaking of the feast of the Passover says at this feast while drinking the “third cup” the jews open the door to admit Elijah whom they expect one day to come:
“Hence to this day, in every Jewish home, at a certain part of the Paschal service – just after the ‘third cup’, or the ‘cup of blessing,’ has been drunk – the door is opened to admit Elijah the prophet as forerunner of the Messiah, while appropriate passages are at the same time read which foretell the destruction of all heathen nations.” (p. 197.)
It was about this time, April 3, 1836, while the Jews were so celebrating that Elijah did come to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery with his divine keys of sealing power.
It is a very significant fact that since 1836, the hearts of children in most of the nations have turned to their fathers. Genealogical research has taken hold of hundreds of thousands of the people. Numerous genealogical societies have been organized and millions of pedigrees have been searched out. The hearts of the children in the church have been turned to Temple work, in the world to the preparation of records. This is very strong presumptive evidence that Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery told the truth in relation to this remarkable vision.
This subject (like many others we have had to hurriedly pass could be continued indefinitely. This work is among the most important placed upon the Saints. It is our duty to save our dead. After this knowledge was made known to the Prophet, he wrote to the apostles in Great Britain as follows:
“I presume the doctrine of “baptism for the dead” had ere this reached your ears, and may have raised some inquiries in your minds respecting the same. …
“I first mentioned the doctrine in public when preaching the funeral sermon of Brother Seymour Brunson; and have since then given general instructions in the Church on the subject. The Saints have the privilege of being baptized for those of their relatives who are dead, whom they believe would have embraced the gospel, if they had been privileged with hearing it, and who have received the gospel in the spirit, through the instrumentality of those who have been commissioned to preach to them while in prison.” (History of the Church, Vol. 4:231.)
Perhaps the first knowledge of the salvation of the dead that came to the Prophet was the following revelation received in the Kirtland Temple January 21, 1836:
“All who have died without a knowledge of this gospel, who would have received it if they had been permitted to tarry, shall be heirs of the celestial kingdom of God; also all that shall die henceforth without a knowledge of it, who would have received it with all their hearts shall be heirs of that kingdom, for I, the Lord, will judge all men according to their works, according to the desires of their hearts.” (History of the Church 2:380.)
6. All members of the Church should make careful note of the saying by Elijah that his coming is to us a sign that the great and dreadful day of the Lord is near, even at our doors. If we go on indifferently and paying no heed to these sayings, we may find ourselves unprepared for the days to come.
1936: Quorum Bulletin and Gospel Doctrine Lessons
Lesson 1: Priesthood – Its Ultimate Source
These lessons are taken from sermons delivered over Radio KSL. This address was given by Elder James E. Talmage, Sunday, June 11, 1933.
Creation is Organization
Intelligence the Goal
Is, was and Shall Be
Revelation to Abraham
Priesthood Proceeds from God
Authority to Speak
False Claims to Authority
In the proposed series of addresses of which this is the first, an unqualified acceptance of Deity as supreme is taken for granted.
It would be inconsistent even to assume the existence of a Deity of less than infinite knowledge and power.
We believe, therefore, in God as the author and ruler of the universe, the creator of the heavens and the earth and all that in them is.
Creation Is Organization
Deity is creator in the sens of organizer and director, through whose power both matter and energy are shaped and applied according to purpose and time, with definite objectives and successive consummations, each at once an ending and a beginning.
Our study of the processes of Nature – the sum total of which we may designate by the convenient name Science – relieves us from the necessity of assuming that creation means the making of something out of nothing. If the human mind can conceive of a condition of absolute nothingness, then we must apprehend the fact that from nothingness nothing can come.
Matter and energy are transmutable, possibly convertible the one into the other, but essentially without beginning or end, indestructible and therefore non-creatable in the ultimate sense. Matter and energy are eternal. From them, under organizing direction have come this earth and the other worlds of space – satellites and planets, suns and supersuns, galaxies, nebulae and graded systems of worlds.
Intelligence the Goal,
As life is the highest manifestation of creative power, intelligence the object of existence – for the very “glory of God is intelligence” – we may accept the probability of the tenancy of other worlds by sentient and reasoning beings. If they are provided with physical tabernacles analogous to ours, composed of the materials of the orbs upon which they dwell, their bodies must be adjusted to conditions prevailing on the respective worlds, which conditions may be very different form those to which the inhabitants of this earth are adapted.
With this passing reflection on the depths and heights of space let us consider more particularly this one of the heavenly bodies upon which we find ourselves, and look at some phases of the life we lead here. An understanding of certain fundamental facts is essential to further comprehension of the interrelation between earth and man.
Obviously, mortality is part of the divine plan and system.
The complete individual, the soul, consists of a spirit tabernacled in a physical body.
The body is composed of the materials of earth which are organized by the spirit to suit its needs.
The spirit is also material, though of substance and physical properties invisible and intangible to bodily senses.
The spirit existed as an intelligent entity prior to its embodiment, and so exists after its separation from the body through death.
Is, Was and Shall BeMan’s earth-life is a relatively short period, as distinguished from the ante-mortal and post-mortal eternities. It is our present, definitely set apart from the past of unembodiment and the future of disembodiment, this last-named to be followed by re-embodiment through the resurrection, which shall come to all who have ever existed as mortals. Earth-life is; the unembodied state was; disembodiment and eventual resurrection shall be. Mortality, brief though it be, is a period of immeasurable importance to the soul – by poor analogy comparable to the few years of college training as related to a life-time. It can not be that mortal existence is the result of chance. We are here for a purpose, b high design, to bring to realization the plans conceived in the mind of God.
When, after ages of progressive preparation this earth had become fit to support life, living organism took form and substance upon it – plants and animals in orderly sequence. Then came man, at once the highest expression of creative power and the consummation toward which all precedent developments had been leading. He came as the embodied child of God, his spirit the literal offspring of Deity, dwelling and functioning in a body of earth, earthy.
“And God said, Let us make man in our image. * * *
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” (Gen. 1:26, 27.)
“And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” (Gen. 2:7.)
Revelation to Abraham
This we read in the sublime epic of creation enshrined in Genesis. But we have another record, older as to authorship, from which we learn of the divine intent with respect to the prime use to which the earth was to be put, the preexistent state of the spirits of mankind, their varying degrees of intelligence and capability, the purpose of mortal existence then projected, the proving of souls by fair trial and searching test, and the issue of glorious attainment or failure according to individual merit or demerit. The record is part of the Book of Abraham, written by the hand of the great patriarch while he was in Egypt, and translated from the original papyrus in 1836:
“Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones;
“And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born.
“And there stood one among them that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell;
“And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them;
“And they who keep their first estate shall be added upon; and they who keep not their first estate shall not have glory in the same kingdom with those who keep their first estate; and they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever.” (pearl of Great Price, book of Abraham 3:22-26.)
This program of the gods has been put into effect, and the earth is tenanted by souls to whom is thus opened a course of eternal progression, to be determined in the measure of their compliance with the divine requirements. But who shall make known unto them – unto us – the commandments of God, upon obedience to which so much depends? Let us see.
To make the experience of mortality effective as a test whereby men shall be proved, they must be measurably left to themselves, free to accept or reject, to comply or disobey; otherwise the beneficent purpose of earth-life would fall. Nevertheless, mankind must not be so completely left to themselves as to be without guides or guidance. They must be taught the laws of God if they are to be judged on the basis of compliance or rejection. It is therefore indispensable that teachers be provided in this school of life. Or, as we view the matter from another angle, it is essential to the success of the plan that God provide spokesmen to voice his word and make plain his will to the people. There must be men to whom the Lord directly speaks, men who stand between him and the people, to receive from him and give to them. These are the Lord’s prophets and revelators. Their divine investiture, their commission to minister in this exalted service, is distinctively called priesthood.
Priesthood Proceeds from the Godhead
It follows that the ultimate source of all priestly authority is God himself; in whom all powers of supreme jurisdiction inhere. To men called to bear the divine investiture of priesthood graded powers and authority are delegated. When so commissioned one is empowered and required to declare and expound the mind and will of deity, and to administer prescribed rites and ordinances within the limitations of his individual calling and appointment.
It is obvious that the powers of priesthood are attainable only through divine bestowal. authority to speak and act in the name of Deity can not originate with man nor can he arrogate unto himself the power to minister in the sacred ordinances requisite to the salvation or exaltation of souls. Through one so empowered others may be called, appointed, set apart or ordained to specific duties and designated ministry as by inspiration or revelation the Lord shall direct.
All that has been said of God as the source of Priesthood may be understood as applying to the Godhead as a unit and to each member of the Divine Trinity. We recognize Jesus Christ as Redeemer and Savior of men as the firstborn of the spirit children of God the Eternal Father and his only begotten son in body, as the Jehovah of the Old Testament and the Christ of the New, as God who was made manifest in the flesh and as the one through whom and in whose name alone it is possible for us to reach him whom we address as “our Father, who art in heaven.” therefore, any and all authority given, assignment made or commission conferred by Jesus Christ is a delegation of authority from God.
By What Authority?
The necessity of a man who is to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ being authorized by Him so to do is so clearly self-evident as to appeal to the thoughtful mind without argument or demonstration. This inherent necessity applies with even greater force to one who undertakes to administer the ordinances of the Gospel. Can we rationally conceive of a man without election or appointment to civil office assuming the authority of such office and presuming to discharge its functions? Not only would the acts of such a pretender be wholly invalid, but he himself would be liable to the penalties provided by law for usurpation of office or false impersonation.
Authority to speak and act for an in the name of God is the vital essence of Priesthood.
As to the righteous exercise of this delegated power and authority, and with respect to men who have falsely claimed to possess it, the Lord is particularly jealous – which is to say that for the holiness and sanctity of His Priesthood he is righteously zealous. Be it noted in passing that the two adjectives, jealous and zealous, are of common origin and at one time had practically the same meaning in our language. Never has the Lord called upon men to esteem as sacred and holy that which He Himself does not so regard.
The indispensable requisite that to officiate in the ordinances of the Gospel a man had to be chosen through inspiration or direct revelation, and then had to be ordained or set apart by those already invested by divine commission, was understood and adhered to by the Apostles in the Primitive Church. In the Epistle to the Hebrews mention is made of high priests, each of whom had to be ordained for his exalted ministry “in things pertaining to God.” Then follows the affirmation: “And no man taketh this honor unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.” (Heb. 5:1, 4.)
In the twenty-eighth chapter of Exodus we read as to how Aaron was called – through the direct word of the Lord given to Moses, under whose hands Aaron and his sons were consecrated and set apart in the priest’s office. So by revelation or inspiration through men already commissioned and ordained comes the call of others. This is the Lord’s way; man can not change it.
False Claims to Authority
Instances of divine zeal with respect to the sanctity of Priesthood are of record in both the Old and new Testaments. Let us consider a single example from each of these. an impressive object lesson appears in the case of Korah and his associates who rebelled against the authority of the established Priesthood in that they falsely professed the right to minister in the functions of the priest, when they were commissioned for the lesser duties of the Levites. Read the story in Numbers, chapter 16. “ye take too much upon you, ye sons of Levi,” exclaimed Moses in righteous indignation. Then, having set before them the distinguishing duties of the Levites, he demanded, “?And seek ye the priesthood also?” For their great transgression those presumptuous ones brought upon themselves dire retribution.
Passing to the period of the Apostles, we find an impressive example of the futility of false ceremonies, or of the mere form of sacred ordinances when the authority is absent, in the record of the seven sons of Sceva. These in common with others had marveled at the miraculous power possessed by Paul, with whom the Lord had so blessed in his apostleship that b his administration many afflicted ones had been healed and evil spirits rebuked. Sceva’s sons who were classed by the chronicler among the exorcists and vagabond Jews, sought to subdue an evil spirit: “We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth”: but the wicked spirit derided them for their lack of authority, exclaiming: “Jesus I know and Paul I know, but who are ye?” Discomfitted and exposed they fled from the house. (See Acts 19:13-16.)
By way of summary and conclusion:
Priesthood is divine authority, inherent in the Godhead as its prime or ultimate source.
Priesthood is an indispensable requisite for communication between Deity and mortals.
Priesthood can be acquired by men only through specific delegation and bestowal from the Eternal Father through Jesus Christ.
False claims to Priesthood or unauthorized attempts to discharge its functions are grievous violations of the divine law.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints proclaims its position with respect to Priesthood in this wise:
We believe 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.
Questions and Problems
1. Define Priesthood.
2. What is the ultimate source of Priesthood?
3. Give reasons why a man cannot take Divine Authority unto himself without divine appointment and ordination.
4. Why did the Lord give unto man his free agency?
5. Give reason why it would be inconsistent to assume the existence of a Deity of less than infinite knowledge and power.
6. Was this considered true of the gods of Egypt, Rome, Greece and other heathen nations?
7. Can matter be created?
8. How do we accept Deity as Creator in relation to matter?
9. What has the Lord revealed as to the purpose and destiny of worlds? (See Moses (P. of G.P.) 1:33, 37-39, D.and C. 76:24; 88:18-21, 25-26.
10. How is mortality a part of the divine system for man’s eternal existence?
11. What was the first estate?
12. In what manner and for what reason is man proved in the second estate?
1936: Quorum Bulletin and Gospel Doctrine Lessons
Lesson 2: Priesthood – From the Beginning
Radio Talk by Elder James E. Talmage given over KSL, Sunday, June 18, 1933:
The Priesthood of God
Adam and The Human Family
In Addition to Genesis
The First Great Apostasy
Agents of Satan
Cain and Abel
Seth and His Posterity
Noah and the Deluge
Spirits in Prison
To Abraham, Isaac and Jacob
Priest of the Most High
Out from the House of Bondage
In our evening service a week ago we considered the meaning of PRIESTHOOD, and found it to be – so far as mortals are concerned – the authority and commission given unto man to speak and act in the name of Deity. We say that this definition applies so far as mortals are concerned, for, as was demonstrated, Priesthood is inherent in the Godhead, and all human exercise of its powers is made possible by specific delegation of divine authority. In the ultimate sense Priesthood as the power of Godship is without beginning or end – having existed prior to the establishment of mortality upon this earth and extending into eternity beyond the grave of mankind. It is the genius of divine leadership – as contrasted with the administration of human institutions by authority originating with man.
Priesthood of God
It is notable that our most widely used commentaries, Bible dictionaries and special treatises called scholarly, treat the subject priesthood with brevity and uncertainty, or frankly acknowledge inability. However, the writers of such works generally speak of the term Priest at greater length, and this they use in the general sense of any minister or person exercising offices of sacerdotal character. Historians recognize ancient priests and priesthood of both Jehovistic or, later, Christian, and also of Pagan character.
We are to consider the Priesthood of the Godhead, emanating from the Eternal Father through the Son, Jesus Christ. Discussion of priesthood in other phases would be foreign to our present purpose. Let us keep in mind the fundamental and most vital fact that priesthood is the power and authority given from God to man, whereby man acts as the agent of God; and that the term is also applied to the class, order or organized body of men so ordained, as when we speak of an assembly of priesthood.
Adam and the Human Family
The earliest scriptural mention of man is connected with the once prospective and later realized plan of placing Adam upon the earth. Through all the records known to us collectively as Holy Scripture the term man is exclusively applied to Adam or his descendants. Whatever may be thought or said as to evolutionary or other development by which the human species as such came into existence, believers in the scriptural account will continue to regard the beginning of human history as coincident with the inauguration of the Adamic administration.
Unto Adam and his immediate posterity the Lord gave definite commandment and placed them under covenant: to prove them thereby and so demonstrate as to whether they would do all things whatsoever the Lord their God would command them. See Book of Abraham 3:25. These events mark the inauguration – glorious in plan, prospects and possibilities – of the great school of mortality, the university of life. As the chief administrator in its affairs stood the divinely invested principal, preceptor, and guide, the patriarchal head of the race.
In Addition to Genesis
The record of Adam’s personal ministry as it appears in Genesis is confessedly scant. Yet we know that he was the first to function under the divine conferment of appointment and authority such as we call priesthood. The Book of Moses gives us an illuminating account of events, all of great import, following the expulsion from Eden and prior to the birth of Cain and Abel mentioned in Genesis. Let us read:
“And it came to pass that after I, the Lord God, had driven them out, that Adam began to till the earth and to have dominion over all the beasts of the field, and to eat his bread by the sweat of his brow, as I the Lord had commanded him. And Eve, also, his wife, did labor with him.
“And Adam knew his wife, and she bare unto him sons and daughters, and they began to multiply and replenish the earth.
“And from that time forth, the sons and daughters of Adam began to divide two and two in the land, and to till the land, and to tend flocks, and they also begat sons and daughters.
“And Adam and Eve, his wife, called upon the name of the Lord; and they heard the voice of the Lord from the way toward the Garden of Eden, speaking unto them, and they saw hm not; for they were shut out from his presence.
“And he gave unto them commandments, that they should worship the Lord their God, and should offer the firstlings of their flocks for an offering unto the Lord. And Adam was obedient unto the commandments of the Lord.
“And after many days an angel of the Lord appeared unto Adam, saying: Why dost thou offer sacrifices unto the Lord? And Adam said unto him: I know not, save the Lord commanded me.
“And then the angel spake, saying: this thing is a similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten of the Father, which is full of grace and truth.
“Wherefore thou shalt do all that thou doest in the name of the Son, and thou shalt repent and call upon God in the name of the son forevermore.
“And in that day the Holy Ghost fell upon Adam, which beareth record of the Father and the Son, saying: I am the Only Begotten of the Father from the beginning, henceforth and forever, that as thou hast fallen thou mayest be redeemed, and all mankind, even as many as will.
“And in that day Adam blessed God and was filled, and began to prophesy concerning all the families of the earth, saying: Blessed be the name of God, for because of my transgression my eyes are opened, and in this life I shall have joy and again in the flesh I shall see God.
“And Eve, his wife, heard all these things and was glad, saying: Were it not for our transgression, we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient.
“And Adam and Eve blessed the name of God, and they made all things known unto their sons and their daughters.” (Book of Moses 5:1-12.)
The First Great Apostasy
Notwithstanding the devoted efforts of Adam and the more righteous of his posterity born during the several generations while he yet lived, mankind in general refused to heed the commandments of God, derided the prophecies of a coming Redeemer and of the necessity of faith in him, ignored the call to repentance, flouted the requirement of baptism, treated the existence of the Holy ghost as a myth, and literally wallowed in sin. Moses, to whom these centuries of history were detailed in vision, gives this incisive and comprehensive summary of growing evils among the children of Adam and Eve:
“And Satan came among them, saying: I am also a son of God; and he commanded them, saying: Believe it not; and they believed it not, and they loved Satan more than God. And men began from that time forth to be carnal, sensual, and devilish.
“And the Lord God called upon men by the Holy Ghost everywhere and commanded them that they should repent;
“And as many as believed in the Son, and repented of their sins, should be saved; and as many as believed not and repented not, should be damned; and the words went forth out of the mouth of God in a firm decree; wherefore they must be fulfilled.” (Book of Moses 5:13, 14, 15.)
Thus early in the history of man there developed a well-nigh universal apostasy. The wicked worldlings rejected the scriptures then extant among them and persecuted the living oracles of God who spoke by authority as the Holy ghost gave them utterance. Sophistry and theory were extolled beyond sound doctrine and fact. “Higher Critics” – of the evil and destructive kind – were busy, declaring the scriptures to be nothing more than fiction, stigmatizing the patriarchs and prophets as dreaming visionaries in a state of self-deluded dotage.
Agents of Satan
The false priests who stood for Satan, “the father of lies,” made it unpopular to profess or confess belief in the God of their fathers, crying far and wide with frenzied zeal, “Believe it not!” And multitudes of Adamites extended and perpetuated the blasphemous slogans of revolt against righteousness – for they loved Satan more than God and so far departed from their once high estate as to become carnal, sensual and devilish.
Cain and Abel
Adam and his wife bitterly bewailed the frightful condition of sin in which their children and children’s children reveled with unholy delight, and hailed the birth of Cain as a possible agency of reformation, Eve exclaiming in yearning and pathetic hope: “I have gotten a man from the Lord.” Oh, the anguish of it all! Cain grew up to be a leader in sin. “Who is the Lord,” he blasphemously exclaimed, “that I should know him?” In time a fratricide he roamed the earth a dark-skinned outcast under the curse of God.
The despairing sorrow of Adam and Eve was assuaged in part through the birth of righteous Abel, who grew to be the second of record in the Adamic line to bear the Holy Priesthood by direct and personal bestowal. Through later revelations we are told that Abel “received the Priesthood by the commandments of God, by the hand of his father Adam. ***” (See Doctrine and Covenants 84:16.) But Abel was slain by evil-hearted Cain, and again the first parents of the race were plunged into grief because they could find no man of God among their children.
Seth and His Posterity
Relief came to them and their hope was renewed through the birth of Seth, who grew to be of the very likeness and image of his father, by whom he was ordained to the Holy Priesthood. And so from generation to generation the Priesthood was perpetuated by personal ordination – to Seth, then in turn to Enos, Cainan, Mahalaleel, Jared, Enoch and Methuselah – all of whom were ordained under the hand of Adam – thence to Lamech who was ordained by Seth and to Noah who was ordained by Methuselah, his father.
Noah and the Deluge
Now, by this time mankind had become almost wholly wicked and in every way recreant in the sight of God. Except for the line of righteous men through whom the Priesthood was perpetuated the very knowledge of the existence of God was lost through the forfeiture of sin. Noah was commanded to proclaim by solemn admonition and authoritative warning the impending destruction of the wicked world of mankind; and for one hundred and twenty years he strove mightily with his contemporaries to persuade them to repent of their sins, return to the ways of God and so avert the fate which otherwise would surely befall. But they loved their sordid wickedness, sought to slay the prophet who warned and pleaded, went their way eating and drinking and making merry, till they were overtaken by the flood by which the land was cleansed of the filth of their abominations. Through Noah and his family group of seven, all of whom were saved in the ark, the priesthood was carried beyond the flood.
Spirits in Prison
Mention of the corrupt ante-diluvians, whose cumulative sins brought upon them destruction in the flesh, suggests the query as to whether their untimely and violent deaths were sufficient for expiation. Peter the apostle informs us that in the interim between our Lord’s crucifixion and resurrection, while his body was on the cross or in the sepulcher, his spirit went to the realm of the disembodied and there preached to other spirits, with particular mention of those who had been swept form earth by the flood. Note this impressive passage: “*** He went and preached unto the spirits in prison; which sometime were disobedient, when once the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing; wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.’ (See I Peter 3:18-20.)
Doubtless others were included in the Lord’s redeeming ministry among the dead. But with reference to those who rejected Noah, the Lord’s prophet who spoke under the authority of the holy priesthood, we know on the affirmation of scripture that for about twenty-0three centuries their disembodied spirits existed in a state of restraint comparable to that of prisoners “gathered in the pit” and “shut up in the prison” awaiting the predicted time of visitation. (Read Isaiah 24:21-22.)
To Abraham, Isaac, Jacob
After the earth had been replenished by the posterity of Noah following a season of comparative righteousness, mankind again waxed strong in wickedness, and as an inevitable consequence forfeited the knowledge of the living God and fell into the abominations of idolatry.
About four and a quarter centuries after Noah, a new period was inaugurated in the interactions of God with men; and, in the usual order, the Lord commissioned a man to speak and otherwise minister in his name. Abraham, son of Terah the idolater, was so called and authorized. Jehovah made covenant with Abraham, whose posterity through Isaac came to be known as a chosen people, unto whom blessings of surpassing worth and eternal duration were promised on condition of obedience to divine commandment. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, of three successive generations, are distinctively known as patriarchs, whom the Lord honored by direct communication and personal visitation.
Priest of the Most High
From Adam to righteous Enoch thence to Noah, in the line of the patriarchal succession, each was ordained after the order of God and so likewise were Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. In the time of Abraham the line of priesthood is especially marked by the ministry of melchizedek, who is designated as “the priest of the Most High God,” whom Abraham honored and to whom he paid tithes. Scriptures of later date make plain that because of the eminent righteousness of Melchizedek, and the exalted station to which he had been ordained, the highest order of priesthood came to be known by his name. Even the Lord Christ, the embodied Jehovah, God in the flesh, is designated as “an high priest after the order of Melchizedek.” (See Heb. 5:10.)
Out from the House of Bondage
From Jacob, high priest and patriarch, with whom the Lord renewed the covenant that had been made with Abraham, and who was appointed to be known by the exalted name-title Israel, sprang the Twelve Tribes. They grew to be a numerous and powerful people under a theocratic form of tribal government, but were brought down into Egypt, where for four hundred and thirty years they lived in close association with a pagan nation, and for a great part of that time in servitude.
But the word of the Lord to Abraham could not be made void. Jehovah’s promise was of assured fulfilment – in due time. When the children of Israel had been sufficiently disciplined, the shackles of slavery were stricken from their limbs, the lash was wrested from the hands of their Egyptian taskmasters, and they were led upward from the land of Egypt and taken out of the house of bondage under manifestations of the outstretched arm of divine power.
Let it be repeated that in his dealings with mankind Jehovah uses men. They are his agents, his instruments of effectiveness, his appointed representatives, authorized and instructed to speak and act in his name. For the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt, and for their rehabilitation as a nation to the Lord their God, a leader was called and ordained. That leader was Moses, whose commission, whose priesthood and administration under the powers thereof await our later attention.
Questions and Problems
1. Explain how and why Priesthood is inherent in Deity?
2. Why did Adam offer sacrifices?
3. Discuss the mission of our Lord as Mediator between the Father and mankind.
4. How did Jesus Christ become our Redeemer?
5. Why did Adam and Eve rejoice when the full significance of the Fall was explained to them? See Moses (P. of G.P.) 5:7-12.
6. Trace the descent of Priesthood from Adam to Noah.
7. Why did Christ preach to the spirits in prison?
1936: Quorum Bulletin and Gospel Doctrine Lessons
Lesson 3: Priesthood – Moses and Aaron
Radio talk by Elder James E. Talmage given over KSL, Sunday, June 25, 1933.
Moses – Babe, Youth and Man
From Palace to Sheep-fold
The Lord’s Zeal
Greater and lesser
No Successor to Moses
The Law of Carnal Commandments
Under Aaronic Administration
Priesthood Endures Eternally
By way of review and illustrative of what is to follow in our further consideration of men empowered to speak in the name of Deity, let these points of importance be noted:
The millenniums of history dating from Adam, viewed in the light of the progressive dealings of God with man, are readily classified in orderly sequence as distinct Dispensations. The term is expressive and significant, indicating for each a defined period during which the Lord’s prophets administer under a special commission first given to the individual through whom the respective dispensation was inaugurated.
Therefore there always has been and we may say always will be, some one man at the head of each dispensation. So it was with Adam and his successors to the time of Noah, to whom we pass without separate mention of the many noble and great ones to whom the Lord revealed Himself in the course of those centuries.
Had Noah undertaken to preach to his rebellious contemporaries with none other support than the scriptures of Adam, Enoch and the intervening prophets, that sin-ridden generation would probably have cried out against him in this wise: We have heard all those things before – We have read them and we place no trust in them – We do not believe in that kind of God. But Noah summoned the people to hear him, saying: I preach and declare unto you the true and the Living God, whom I know, for I have talked with Him; I have seen Him; and what I say to you in regard to His attributes, plans and purposes is in accord with what have been declared by prophets before me – but I speak to you from new knowledge, given unto me with commission and commandment to proclaim it unto you.
And so with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and now Moses – every one of them individually called and empowered, each invested with the sanctity of the Holy Priesthood, under commandment to declare authoritatively Thus Saith the Lord.
Moses – Babe, Youth and Man
In the estimation of many – of scriptorians and lay-readers alike – Moses is the most prominent if not the most important character in Old Testament history. His life story is a rich field for the dramatist. From his cradle of bulrushes on the river’s brink, on to the discovery of the baby by Pharaoh’s daughter and her adoption of the child, his youth and early manhood in Egypt, his experience as a shepherd in Midian, his call by the Lord speaking as from a flaming bushy, his matchless leading of Israel’s hosts from the Nile to the Jordan, his yearning and pathetic view of Canaan from the heights of Pisgah, his reputed death and the oblivion of absence – all are filled with events of stirring interest throughout his one hundred and twenty years.
From Palace to Sheep-fold
These years are sharply and evenly divided into three epochs of preparation and achievement. For forty years he was schooled in the palace of the Pharaohs, coming to know the ways of princes, affairs of state and the power of unrighteous dominion under which the people of his own nation, the Hebrew people, were kept in slavery.
Then he fled from the scenes of royal splendor and for another forty years was under advanced training in the university of the wilderness, while tending the flocks of Jethro, the priest of Midian, who afterward became his father-in-law and by whom he was ordained to the Priesthood.
After eighty years of preparation he was deemed fit to enter upon the work of his life, the mission for which he had been chosen before he was born.
As he stood barefoot on holy ground and heard the call of the Lord commissioning of his life, the mission for which he had been chosen before he was born.
As he stood barefoot on holy ground and heard the call of the Lord commissioning him to return to Egypt and lead a nation from bondage to freedom, he quailed at the prospect. Self-conscious to a degree that brought upon him severe rebuke, he was told to take his brother, Aaron, three years his senior, who would be to him a spokesman or mouthpiece. Moses was to be as a god to the Egyptians and their king, with Aaron as his prophet.
You know the story oft he afflicting plagues by which Pharaoh was brought eventually to let Israel go, of the departure, the pursuit, the providential means of crossing the Red Sea, the prolonged journey called the exodus, which was continued until, with the exception of Moses, Joshua and Caleb, all who had come out of Egypt had died and a new generation had arisen to take possession of the Promised Land.
Under his high commission as the leader and law-giver of Israel, as the one among them all appointed of God, he holds a place among mortals as one of the greatest of the great, the mightiest of the mighty. Jehovah honored him in his exalted place, and required all Israel to do the same. Disobedience to Moses was disobedience to God. Divinely chosen and invested he had privilege and right to ascend to high places and talk with Jehovah face to face, while the multitudes awaiting below looked upon the enshrouding clouds and trembled before the accompanying thunder and fire.
The Lord’s Zeal
Through the Lord’s zeal for the authority delegated to Moses, the man was repeatedly defended and continuously sustained. We read that Aaron and Miriam his sister once so far forgot themselves as to permit their tongues to wag in sacrilege against their younger brother, the chosen of God. Aaron had been called to the priest’s office, and Miriam was esteemed as a prophetess in Israel. But they gossiped and complained saying: “Hath the Lord indeed spoken only by Moses? Hath he not spoken also by us? and the Lord heard it.” Throughout the camp the voice of Jehovah called, “*** Come out ye three unto the tabernacle of the congregation.” “And the Lord came down in the pillar of the cloud and stood in the door of the tabernacle. ***”
“And he said, Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you, I the Lord will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream.
“My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house.
“With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the Lord shall he behold: wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?
“And the anger of the Lord was kindled against them; and he departed.” (Numbers 12:6-9.)
After the departure of the Presence it was seen that Miriam had become leprous. Through the intercession of Moses, who cried in his anguish: “Heal her now, Oh God, I beseech thee,” she was made whole, but still being ceremonially, as she had been physically, an unclean creature, she was shut out from the camp for the prescribed period of seven days.
The commiseration felt by Moses for his offending sister was worthy: she had transgressed against him and he forgave her. But she had spoken ill of the Lord’s high priest and it was beyond his power to grant forgiveness and absolution for so great an offense. Remember the solemn affirmation: “I the Lord thy God am a jealous God.”
Another important principle and a fact of cital importance are involved in this episode. A clear distinction is made between Moses and lesser prophets in the matter of the means or mode by which the Lord would communicate through them. Upon some of them he would move by visions or reams, or by means of the sacred instruments Urim and Thummim; but not so with Moses to whom Jehovah would speak, as he had spoken, as literally as one man speaks with another; for unto the Lord’s high priest it was given that he should behold the very similitude of God. The distinction is a radical one of kind, not merely a limitation degree. Moses was entitled to this personal and literal communion with Jehovah; Aaron was not.
Yet, Aaron, together with some of his sons, had been ordained, consecrated, set apart to sacred ministry in the priest’s office. He had been clothed in holy garments, anointed with sacred oil, acclaimed among the hosts, and wore upon his forehead a plate of pure gold bearing the deeply cut inscription HOLINESS TO THE LORD.
Now Moses and Aaron were of the tribe of Levi, and as Levites they were eligible through lineage for the ministry within prescribed limitations. But Aaron and his sons had been separated from the rest of the Levites as priests, while Moses had been exalted to a yet higher calling. The lesser order of Priesthood conferred upon Aaron was decreed to continue through his posterity in all generations. True, Aaron’s descendants would have to be individually consecrated or ordained, as he had been, but through their Aaronistic lineage they were made eligible, if of worthy life and character, for such ordination. We read of no such descent through lineage of the higher Priesthood conferred upon Moses. When Aaron was about to die, there on Mount Hor, he was divested of his holy garments, which were placed upon his son, Eleazar, who from that time was honored in Israel and of the Lord as the chief of the priests, holding, therefore, a position of presidency in the lesser order of Priesthood which had been conferred upon his father, and which is known distinctively and specifically as the Priesthood of Aaron, or the Aaronic priesthood.
No Successor to Moses
When Moses knew that he was about to be taken he pleaded with Jehovah to “set a man ove4r the congregation *** that the congregation of the Lord be not as sheep which have no shepherd.”
In response, the Lord said unto Moses:
“Take thee Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit, and lay thine hand upon him;
“And set him before Eleazar the priest, and before all the congregation; and give him a charge in their sight.
“And thou shalt put some of thine honor upon him, that all the congregation of the children of Israel may be obedient.
“And he shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall ask counsel for him after the judgment of Urim before the Lord; at his word shal they go out, and at his word they shall come in, both he, and all the children of Israel with him, even all the congregation.” (Numbers 28:18-21.)
We depart from accuracy when we speak of Joshua as the successor to Moses. True, Joshua was appointed to be the commander and leader of the hosts; but he was not invested with the full power of the priesthood that Moses had borne.
As heretofore shown, the higher order of Priesthood – such as was borne in turn by Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses – each of whom was found worthy through righteousness of life and by their exalted ordinations to commune personally in face to face visitations of the Lord – came to be known by the name of the great high priest, Melchizedek. In addition to the Priesthood of Aaron, therefore, we recognize the higher endowment, which is after the order of Melchizedek, and known as the Melchizedek Priesthood.
Let it not be thought, however, that the lesser order was given first and that the higher developed or evolved from it. Facts already cited are all to the contrary. The higher order of Priesthood was held and exercised by Adam, and continued through the line of high priests and patriarchs, men individually called and endowed, to Moses.
The first scriptural mention of the lesser or Aaronic Priesthood is found in the connection we have shown as related to the exodus of the children of Israel and the call of Aaron. Divine provision had been made that if the people would be true to their God, diligently keeping His commandments, thus demonstrating their fitness, they should be sanctified before Him as a nation, under which conditions they would undoubtedly receive the blessings of the higher Priesthood. In the third month following their departure from Egypt, while they were encamped in the desert of Sinai, the Lord gave unto them through Moses this message of high assurance:
“Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself.
“Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people; for all the earth is mine:
“And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation.” (Exodus 19:4-6).
The people answered:
“All that the Lord hath spoken we will do.”
But this wordy promise found little support in deeds. Even before they moved camp their defection was demonstrated. They had been commanded to prepare themselves against the third day when the Lord would make his presence and glory manifest unto the whole people. But when that day came, they faltered and fled, crying out to Moses: “Speak thou with us and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.”
Had this rejection of the Lord proved to be but an isolated failure and offense, based largely on fear, it might possibly have been expiated and forgiven. But through the four decades of their journey before they reached the borders of Canaan, they demonstrated again and again their inability and unworthiness to be taken into exalted and close communion with their God. In large measure Israel had failed.
The Law of Carnal Commandments
Thus they forfeited the boundless privileges of the gospel, and received instead the law of carnal commandments, the genius of which is expressed in the imperative injunctions of the Decalog: “thou shalt” and “Thou shalt not.” As long as he was with them Moses labored for their welfare, admonishing, reproving, commanding, visiting penalties as incurred, pleading for them before the Lord, but their piety was little more than words and slavish devotion to formalities and ceremonials.
Under Aaronic Administration
So that, as stated, when Moses ascended Mount Pisgah, to look over the goodly land which he was not permitted to enter, and was seen of Israel no more, the people were left under the guidance of Eleazar, son of Aaron and chief priest, with whom Joshua was associated in the performance of more secular functions.
These conditions as to priesthood, and the circumstances that led to the suspension of the Melchizedek order and the substitution of the Aaronic therefor among the Israelites of old, are definitely set forth in a revelation given through Joseph Smith the prophet in September, 1832. The line of descent b which this higher or presiding priesthood was perpetuated from Adam to Moses is followed by a reaffirmation of the lesser order having been conferred upon Aaron, and the revelation continues:
“And this greater Priesthood administereth the gospel and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God.
“Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest.
“And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh;
“For without this no man can see the face of God, even the Father, and live.
“Now this Moses plainly taught to the children of Israel in the wilderness, and sought diligently to sanctify his people that the might behold the face of God;
“But they hardened their hearts and could not endure his presence; therefore, the Lord in his wrath, for his anger was kindled against them, swore that they should not enter into his rest while in the wilderness, which rest is the fulness of his glory.
“Therefore, he took Moses out of their midst, and the Holy Priesthood also;
“And the Lesser Priesthood continued, which Priesthood holdeth the key of the ministering of angels and the preparatory gospel;
“Which gospel is the gospel of repentance and of baptism, and the remission of sins, and the law of carnal commandments, which the Lord in his wrath caused to continue with the house of Aaron among the Children of Israel until John, whom God raised up, being filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother’s womb.” (Doctrine and Covenants 84:19-27.)
Priesthood Endures Eternally
The authority and power of priesthood continue with the individual if he be found worthy, even beyond death and resurrection. By way of illustration:
We find Moese associated with a prophet of later earth-life, Elijah, ministering to Christ amidst the glorious scenes of the Transfiguration. (See Matthew, chapter 17.) At that time neither Moses nor Elijah was a resurrected being, for the first of all men to emerge from the tomb as an immortalized personage, was He who alone could and did overcome the power of death, Jesus the Redeemer.
But on April 3, 1836, Moses appeared in the resurrected state to Joseph Smith and his associate, Oliver Cowdery, in the Temple at Kirtland, Ohio, his appearing following that of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the record:
“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.” (Doctrine and Covenants 110:11.)
THE POWERS OF PRIESTHOOD ARE OF ETERNAL VALIDITY.
Questions and Problems
1. What is a dispensation of the Gospel?
2. From whom did Moses obtain the Priesthood?
3. Who were the Midianites?
4. Trace the order of Priesthood from Moses to Noah.
5. On what occasion and in what manner did the Lord say he would speak to Moses with greater power than to other prophets?
6. Discuss the introduction of the aaronic Priesthood in Israel.
7. Why is the greater Priesthood called the Melchizedek Priesthood?
8. Why was the fulness of Priesthood withdrawn from the Israelites after the days of Moses?
9. What do we mean by the “Law of Moses”?
10. What is the meaning of “carnal commandments”?
11. Is the law of carnal commandments in force today; if not, when was it done away as a commandment?
12. Which law is observed most nearly today, the law of the Gospel or the carnal law?
1943: Advanced Junior Sunday School Lessons
Lesson 6: Preparation for the Ministry
A little girl was stricken with a throat infection so her parents called the doctor. After he had left, the brother of the girl said, “Daddy, when I get to be a man I am going to be a doctor.” The boy was but five years old. His father smiled and then began to estimate how much time and expense would be required to give his boy complete medical training. There would be eleven years in elementary and high schools, three or four in the university, four in a medical school and two years of internship in a hospital. He concluded that twenty years of schooling and several thousand dollars would be the price his boy would have to pay to learn how to heal men’s bodies. And this did not include the vast sums of money spent by state and private institutions in the erection and maintenance of schools and hospitals.
1. The purpose of the gospel of Jesus Christ is to heal men’s souls: How important is that as compared with the healing of the body?
2. What preparation is necessary to heal men’s souls?
3. How did Jesus help his disciples qualify for the ministry?
4. Name some of the “tools” used by (1) a physician, (2) an Apostle.
Lessons in Leadership
For three years the Twelve walked and talked with Jesus. They saw Him eat with sinners, comfort the poor, heal the sick, and feed the multitude. They accompanied Him to Jerusalem where they witnessed his courage in driving out the money-changers from the temple and in denouncing the hypocrisy of some of the Pharisees. They saw Him “from afar off” taken first to the High Priest’s house, and then to Pilate; and finally they saw Him forced to wear a crown of thorns on his head from which blood dripped, and to drag a heavy cross through the streets of Jerusalem on His way to Calvary. To the mocking soldiers who cried: “If Thou be King of the Jews, save Thyself” some of them heard Jesus reply: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”
surely intimate association for three years with the greatest personality the world has ever known, with the very author of the Gospel, would prove to be one great source of preparation to teach the Gospel to others. Incidents occurred in that fellowship which the Twelve could never forget, and which came to mean all the more to them after Jesus had ascended to his Father in Heaven following His resurrection. Let us learn of some of these memorable happenings through which the Twelve learned about their mission as servants of Jesus.
The Touch of Faith
One day while Jesus was on His way to heal a daughter of Jairus, a Jewish leader of great faith, He was followed by a large number of people who were eager to see and h ear this remarkable man of Galilee. In the crowd was a woman. She was not there just out of curiosity. For twelve long years she had suffered from ill health. All she possessed she had paid to physicians but was no better for it, ‘but rather grew worse.”
Too timid to speak to Jesus she touched his garment. “For she said if I may but touch His clothes, I shall be whole.” And straightway she felt in her body that she was healed.
When she touched his garment Jesus knew it. He felt virtue and power leave Him to heal this woman of great faith. Yes, He turned around and asked His disciples, “Who touched my clothes?” His disciples, who were less sensitive to the touch of faith than Jesus, replied, “thou seest the multitude thronging Thee, and sayest Thou, “Who touched me.” (Mark 5:24-35)
1. Why did the Apostles notice only the multitude, while Jesus at the same time felt the woman touch His garment?
2. What do you think the Twelve might have learned from this experience?
The Washing of Feet
At the Last supper, in a house in Jerusalem, Jesus knew that he soon would have to leave the Twelve and that they would have to establish His church. He, therefore, took the occasion to teach the Twelve another great lesson in leadership.
He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. After that he poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. So after he had washed their feet, and had taken His garments and was set down again, he said unto them, know ye what I have done to you? Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to have washed one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. – John 13:4, 5, 12, 13.
1. What great lesson was Jesus teaching the twelve by washing their feet?
2. Which of the Twelve may have learned most from the experience? (Note John 13:6-9)
3. Give other illustrations of this same teaching in the Gospels.
Ordination to the Priesthood
No one can establish the church of Christ at any time without the Priesthood of God. Before the Church was restored in 1830, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery had to receive the Priesthood. Likewise before Jesus sent the Twelve forth to proclaim the Gospel and to establish His Church, He ordained them to the same Priesthood which He Himself possessed.
And He (Jesus) ordained twelve, that they should be with Him, and that He might send them forth to preach, and to have power to heal sickness, and to cast out devils. – Mark 3:14-15
ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, He may give it you. – John 15:16
1. What is the Priesthood?
2. Why would the Twelve need the Priesthood to establish the Church?
3. What is the Fifth Article of Faith of the Latter-day Saint Church?
4. What are you doing, boys, as holders of the Priesthood?
After Jesus had taught the twelve these three years, He said to them:
These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you, but the Comforter which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. – John 14:24-25
if you love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another comforter, that he may abide with you forever even the spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him; but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. – John 14:15-17
1. What is the mission of the Holy Ghost?
2. Why would the Twelve need the companionship of the Holy Ghost?
3. What influence does the Holy Ghost have in your life now?
4. How can one enjoy the gift of the Holy Ghost in fullest measure?
Before the death of Jesus, the Twelve had learned great lessons in humility, faith, and service. They had received the Priesthood of God with which to establish the Church and bless mankind. They had received the gift of the Holy Ghost to lead them into truth and to bring the great teachings of Jesus to their remembrance. The stage had become set for the rise of the primitive Church of Jesus Christ.
1949: Doctrine and Covenants Studies, by Bryant S. Hinckley
Chapter 29: BLESSINGS OF THE PRIESTHOOD (Section 84, verses 1 to 40)
The 84th Section of the Doctrine and Covenants, commonly called the “Revelation on Priesthood,” was given by the Lord through Joseph Smith as a result of direct inquiry by the Prophet during the time (September, 1832) when several elders were returning from their missions to the Eastern States. The accounts they gave of their experiences, together with the burning testimonies they bore regarding the Lord’s blessings to them in their work, brought great joy and inspiration to the Saints and prompted the Prophet to report to the Lord and to seek further instructions.
The answer, obtained on the 22d and 23d of September, is one of the richest and most powerful ever received by the Latter-day Prophet. In this revelation the Lord again reiterates the fact that he has established his church in the last days for the gathering of his Saints upon Mount Zion. He then outlines the marvelous blessings that come to those who are faithful in obtaining and magnifying the two priesthoods and warns his people of their serious responsibility in living the principles of the gospel and of bearing testimony to all the world of those things which he, the Lord, has communicated to them through his chosen prophet.
The Revelation, for purposes of study, may be divided into the following three parts:
1. Blessings of the Priesthood. (Verses 1 to 40.)
2. Obligations of Those who Hold the Priesthood. (Verses 41 to 76.)
3. How the Gospel Shall Be Preached. (Verses 77 to 120.)
In verses 1 to 5, inclusive, the Lord reveals the fact that he, Jesus Christ, is speaking through his chosen prophet, Joseph Smith, with whom he is well pleased. He tells again, verse 2, why his church is re-established – “for the restoration of His people … and for the gathering of the Saints” – and reminds the elders of his instructions (verses 3 to 5) regarding the building of the city of New Jerusalem and his temple. He then tells how the priesthood (verses 6 to 17) was transmitted from Adam down through the generations, explains the difference between the lesser and the greater priesthood (verses 18 to 30), and outlines the marvelous blessings that come to those who obtain both priesthoods and who are faithful in magnifying their callings (verses 31 to 40).
Material for Discussion
A number of interesting and important subjects are opened for discussion in the first forty verses of the 84th Section. Among those which deserve the student’s careful attention are:
1. “For the Restoration of His People.” The restoration of the people (Israel) has been promised by many of the Lord’s prophets from the time of Moses on down to the period when Jesus was conducting his personal ministry on the earth. Because of their iniquity, the Lord’s people were scattered, but always there has been the promise that if they would repent and seek him, the loving Father would gather and restore them. “But if from thence thou shalt seek the Lord thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul.” (Deut. 4:29.)
The “restoration of his people,” as promised in the 2nd verse of the 84th Section, is clearly a distinct and separate part from the “gathering.” By “restoration” is meant restoration to the gospel and to the truth. As pointed out by the Prophet Benjamin in the Book of Mormon, the natural man, unless he allows himself constantly to be guided by the Spirit of the Lord inclines toward sin and away from the truth. (See Mosiah 3:19.) Through the various dispensations of the gospel, the Lord has established his plan upon the earth and then has observed with sorrow and concern as his people, despite the pleadings of his chosen prophets, have slipped away from the truth and into sin and ignorance.
Again, in this last dispensation, his people were in a state of ignorance, having strayed away from the gospel and discarded the plan of salvation. In fulfilment of the promises as spoken by the mouth of his prophets, his church was “established in the last days of the restoration of his people” to the truth of the everlasting gospel, to the way of happiness upon this earth, and for salvation and eternal life.
2. The City of New Jerusalem. “Which city shall be built, beginning at the temple lot, which is appointed by the finger of the Lord, in the western boundaries of the State of Missouri … shall be built by the gathering of the saints, beginning at this place, even the place of the temple, which temple shall be reared in this generation.” (Verses 3 and 4.)
In many earlier sections of the Doctrine and Covenants (Sections 42, 45, 52, 57, 58, 63, 64) the Lord had spoken through his prophet of the building of the temple in the city of new Jerusalem. In the 45th Section, verse 66, the Lord says, “And it shall be called the New Jerusalem, a land of peace, a city of refuge, a place of safety for the saints of the Most High God.” And, in the 42nd Section, verse 62, “Thou shalt ask, and it shall be revealed unto you in mine own due time where the New Jerusalem shall be built.”
Verse 3 of the 84th Section, therefore, is the fulfilment of the many promises made by the Lord that he would tell his people where the city of New Jerusalem would be built. The fact that the city or the temple has not as yet been built in the place here designated has been a source of some concern to many students of the Doctrine and Covenants. One thing must be certain to every thoughtful and prayerful Latter-day Saint – the Lord’s promises surely will be completely fulfilled. When his people are ready, the city and the temple will be built and “those gathered there will be real Saints and not half-hearted members of the church giving indifferent service and heed to the commandments of the Lord.” As regards the meaning of a “generation,” Joseph Fielding Smith says, “A generation, as expressed in this and other scriptures, has reference to a period of time which is indefinite. The Savior said, ‘An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign.’ This did not have reference to a period of years but to a period of wickedness.”
3. Transmission of the Priesthood. In verses 6 to 17 inclusive, the eternal nature of the priesthood is again proclaimed and the Lord explains how it was transmitted from Adam to Moses. When the Lord conferred the priesthood on Adam, he told him, “Now this same priesthood which was in the beginning, shall be in the end of the world also.” (Moses 6:7.) In the 17th verse of the 84th Section, the Lord says, “Which priesthood continueth in the church of God in all generations, and is without beginning of days or end of years.” The Lord’s word contained in these verses was fulfilled when, on the banks of the Susquehanna River, first, John the Baptist, and later, Peter, James, and John conferred the priesthood upon Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery.
4. The Lesser and the Greater Priesthoods. The differences in the powers and purposes of the two priesthoods are described in verses 18 to 30. “And this greater priesthood administereth the gospel and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God,” (verse 19), whereas, the lesser priesthood holds the “key of the ministering of angels and the preparatory gospel.” It “is the gospel of repentance and of baptism, and the remission of sins, and the law of carnal commandments. …” (Verses 26 and 27.) The Lord goes on to explain some of the offices in each of the priesthoods and gives an indication of the organization which he explains in full detail in the 107th Section of the Doctrine and Covenants.
5. The blessings of the Priesthood. The great blessings that come to those who faithfully magnify their callings in the priesthood are outlined in verses 33 to 40 in the 84th Section. These verses undoubtedly contain the most marvelous promises ever given to man. The Lord clearly tells his people that those who receive these priesthoods and who live in accordance with the oaths and covenants they make when they receive them, become the seed of Abraham, and the elect of God … they receive the Father’s kingdom and all that the Father has shall be given unto them. No people have ever received a greater promise for no greater gift can be given than to receive the Father and all that he has. Every holder of the priesthood should weigh carefully the covenants he makes when the priesthood is conferred upon him and should work and pray diligently to be worthy of the marvelous blessings which are within his grasp. The Lord cannot look with compassion upon those who receive these things lightly.
Passages to Remember
Verses 33 to 38 inclusive.
1949: Doctrine and Covenants Studies, by Bryant S. Hinckley
Chapter 30: Obligations of Those Who Hold the Priesthood (Section 84, verses 41 to 76)
“But whoso breaketh this covenant after he hath received it, and altogether turneth therefrom, shall not have forgiveness of sins in this world nor in the world to come.” (Verse 41.) In this clear and direct manner the Lord sets down the requirements and obligations resting upon those who enter into a covenant with him. The Lord will not break his promise of blessings to those who hold and honor the priesthood (verse 40) but every promise of a blessing is accompanied with an obligation.
In verses 41 to 120 in the 84th Section, the Lord outlines the responsibilities that accompany the blessings of the priesthood. The Saints are told that they must “live by every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God,” must “give diligent heed to the words of eternal life,” must come unto the Father in faith and prayer so that He might teach them, must “not only say, but do … that which I have written.”
Above all, the bearers of the priesthood are instructed to teach the gospel, “bearing testimony to all the world of those things which are communicated unto” them. “Therefore, go ye into all the world; and unto whatsoever place ye cannot go ye shall send, that the testimony may go from you into all the world unto every creature.” (Verse 62.)
One of the greatest works of the priesthood in these last days is to preach the gospel. When Jesus’ disciples came to him asking about the signs of his second coming, he told them that one important sign would be that “again this gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in all the world, for a witness to all nations, and then shall the end come.” (Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith 1:31.) It is now the great responsibility and opportunity of the Lord’s people to bring this promise into fulfilment.
In verses 41 to 48, the Lord stresses the importance of giving diligent heed to his words and explains how men can come unto him. In verses 49 to 59, He tells why the world is in need of the gospel and why the children of Zion will be condemned if they fail to preach it. Verses 60 to 76 give the commandment to preach the gospel and outline the signs that will follow them that believe.
Material for Discussion
For purposes of discussion, the material in verses 41 to 76 may be grouped under the subject headings of:
1. “Heed the words of Eternal Life.” (Verses 41 to 48.)
2. “The world’s Need of the Gospel.” (Verses 49 to 59.)
3. “Commandment to Preach the Gospel.” (Verses 60 to 62.)
4. “Signs that Follow Those Who Believe.” (Verses 63 to 76.)
1. “Heed the Words of Eternal Life.” the Lord warns his people to beware concerning themselves and their worldly weaknesses and to give diligent heed to his words. The devil never ceases in his efforts to influence the minds and hearts of men and particularly is he anxious to tempt into carelessness and evil those who hold the priesthood of God. To avoid these temptations, the Lord’s people must ever be on their guard and must “live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God.” (Verse 44.) They must constantly remember that “the word of the Lord is truth, and whatsoever is truth is light, and whatsoever is light is spirit, even the Spirit of Jesus Christ.” (Verses 45.) This spirit gives light and understanding to all those who harken unto the voice of the Lord. Those who keep this spirit with them are secure in their faith and are safe from the buffetings of the evil one. For those who “hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit cometh unto God, even the Father,” (verse 47), and he teaches them in his ways. As every conscientious Latter-day Saint knows, the way to come unto God is through diligent, sincere, and consistent prayer. Those who pray regularly and faithfully, individually and in their families, cannot drift far from the spirit of truth and light.
The way to seek the Lord is through prayer. Not prayer of the half-hearted habitual kind, but sincere, diligent supplication to the Lord for his guidance had help. Prayer of the type engaged in by Enos, the unshakeable, when all day long and into the night he cried mightily unto the Lord until his voice reached the heavens. And a voice came unto him saying, “Enos, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed.” (See Enos, verses 4 and 5, Book of Mormon.) Prayers that have come from hungry souls like Enos’ have always been answered. The Lord stands ready at all times to help those of his children who heed his work and seek him diligently.
2. ”The World’s Need of the Gospel.” In verses 49 to 59, the Lord outlines why the world is in such serious need of His word. He points out that “the whole world lieth in sin, and groaneth under darkness and under the bondage of sin,” (verses 49 and 50), because they will not come unto him. He explains how the wicked can be detected from the righteous. For those who receive not his voice are not acquainted with his voice and are not numbered among the righteous.
The Lord not only describes the extent to which the world is in bondage to sin, but he also criticizes the members of the Church for their failure to live in accordance with his word. Their minds have been darkened, he says, because of unbelief, and because they have treated lightly the things they have received. “Which vanity and unbelief have brought the whole church under condemnation.” (Verse 55.) how many members of the church today are guilty of the same grievous error? How many are there, as Nephi said, who believe, “… eat, drink, and be merry; nevertheless, fear God – He will justify in committing a little sin; yea, lie a little, take advantage of one because of his words, dig a pit for thy neighbor … and if it so be that we are guilty, God will beat us with a few stripes, and at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God.” (II Nephi 28:8.)
The devil delights in dealing in half-truths and his greatest success in obstructing the work of the Lord comes when he beguiles people into self-justification in committing so-called little sins. Out of these seeds spring false, vain, and foolish doctrines and men’s hearts are led away from the truth. “The blood of the Saints shall cry from the ground against them” and “This condemnation resteth upon the children of Zion, even all.” (verse 56.)
As holders of the priesthood, we must constantly guard against the temptations of falling into worldly ways; of questioning the truths of the gospel; of criticizing the Lord’s chosen leaders, and we must “remember the new covenant … not only to say, but to do according to that which I have written.” (Verse 57.)
3. “Commandment to Preach the Gospel.” The Lord will forgive his people of their sins if they will repent and remain steadfast in solemnity and in the spirit of prayer, and if they will bear “testimony to all the world of those things which are communicated unto” them. (Verse 61.) One of the greatest commandments unto the priesthood is to preach the gospel. The Lord has promised that every knee shall bend and every tongue shall confess that Jesus is the Christ and the gospel shall be preached to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. It is the special assignment of the priesthood to help the Lord in the fulfilment of this promise. The plan of salvation can be put int effect no faster than his people discharge their serious obligations in preaching the gospel.
“Therefore, go ye into all the world; and unto whatsoever place ye cannot of ye shall send, that the testimony may go from you into all the world unto every creature.” (Verse 62.) Through the Church’s mighty missionary system and through the individual testimonies of all faithful holders of the priesthood, God’s wisdom and his word shall be established. Preaching the gospel has a double power for good. It brings truth to the hearts of those who seek it and builds and strengthens the testimonies of those who teach.
4. “And these signs shall follow them that believe.” With these words, as in the Meridian of Time when he sent his disciples forth, Jesus outlines the blessings and signs that will follow those who believe. The promises given in verses 66 to 72 are blessings that may be obtained by both the receivers and the teachers of the gospel according to their need and to their faith. These blessings, however, are never given indiscriminately nor for the purpose of illustrating the power of the missionaries. For the Lord says, “that they shall not boast themselves of these things, neither speak them before the world; fr these things are given unto you for your profit and for salvation.” (Verse 73.) Many conscientious missionaries have preached the gospel successfully without the visible accompaniment of any of these signs, yet they knew that the Lord was with them, guiding their activities and crowning their efforts with his glory. His wisdom dictates when these blessings shall be given.
In the 63rd and 64th verses, the Lord calls the elders to whom the revelation was given, his apostles. In calling these brethren apostles more than two years before his first apostles in this dispensation were ordained, Joseph Fielding Smith says, “… The Lord had reference to their mission to all the world as his witnesses, and upon them the same commission to preach and bear witness was laid as was given to his disciples when He sent them forth on such a mission. In the broad sense, an apostle is a witness, or one who is sent to proclaim his truth.” (CHMR, Vol. II, p. 107.) “Therefore, as I said unto mine apostles I say unto you again, that every soul who believeth on your words, and is baptized by water for the remission of sins, shall receive the Holy Ghost.” (Verse 64.)
Passage to Remember
“… Remember th new covenant … not only to say, but to do according to that which I have written.” (Verse 57.)
1950: The Gospel Message, by William E. Barrett
Lessons 17-18: The Priesthood Is Restored
Priesthood Not on the Earth in 1820
It must be apparent, to all who think deeply upon the subject, that no church may effectively perform the ordinances of the Lord except with direct authority from Him. As indicated in the previous chapter, evidences of authority were not to be found at the beginning of the Nineteenth Century. The various gifts of the spirit, which Jesus promised should follow those who administer the ordinances of the gospel, were entirely lacking. There was no indication among men that God accepted any of the ordinances being performed in His name by the church organizations then upon the earth.
No one would seriously doubt that the apostles of Jesus Christ had authority from Jesus for their work – that they were in fact called and had hands laid upon their heads for the tasks to which they dedicated their lives.
Just how long actual authority from the Lord continued in the primitive church is a matter of considerable historical dispute, and it is not our province at this time to attempt to solve it. Both the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches claim continuous priesthood authority since the days of Christ. The Latter-day Saints, while not ascribing the priesthood as being lost in any particular century, maintain that neither the priesthood nor its officers were to be found upon the earth in 1820, at which time the Prophet received his first great vision.
How Joseph Smith Received Authority from God
While translating the Book of Mormon from the gold plates, Joseph Smith and Oliver cowdery must have come frequently upon the passages relating to baptism. Accordingly, on May 15, 1829, Joseph and Oliver retired to a small grove of trees on the banks of the Susquehanna River near Joseph Smith’s residence in harmony. Here they prayed for knowledge on the subject of baptism.
In response to their prayer, they found themselves in the midst of a bright light which overspread them; and a messenger of the Lord appeared to them. He said that he was John the Baptist and held the keys of baptism in the days of Jesus of Nazareth. After giving them instructions concerning those matters upon which they had meditated, he laid hands upon their heads and conferred upon them the priesthood which he himself held, generally referred to as the Aaronic Priesthood. His words are recorded b Joseph Smith as follows:
“Upon you my fellow servants in the name of the 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.” (Doc. and Cov., Sec. 13. In an article in the Messenger and Advocate, 1834, Oliver Cowdery ended the quotation thus, “Which shall remain upon the earth that the sons of Levi may yet offer an offering unto the Lord in righteousness.”)
Joseph writes further in his journal, “He said that this Aaronic Priesthood had not power of laying on hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, but that this should be conferred on us hereafter. He commanded us to go and be baptized and gave us directions that I should baptize Oliver Cowdery and afterwards he should baptize me. Accordingly we went and were baptized. I baptized him first and afterwards he baptized me, after which I laid my hands upon his head and ordained him to the aaronic Priesthood and afterward he laid his hands on me and ordained me to the same priesthood, for so we were commanded. The messenger who visited us on this occasion and conferred this priesthood upon us said that his name was John, the same that we called John the Baptist, 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 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 b him, I also had the spirit of prophecy, when, standing up, I prophesied concerning the rise of the 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.” (Smith, History of the Church, Period I, Vol. I, pp. 39-42.)
Oliver Cowdery speaks of the great joy which came to Joseph and himself over this event – “The assurance that we were in the presence of an angel, the certainty that we heard the voice of Jesus and the truth unsullied as it flowed from the pure personage, dictated by the will of God, is to me past description and I shall ever look upon the expression of the Savior’s goodness with wonder and thanksgiving.” (Messenger and Advocate, 1834. See also Smith, History of the Church, Vol. I, pp. 42-43.)
At a later time the exact date of which is not known, Peter, James and John, in accordance with the promise made by John the Baptist, appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery and conferred upon them the Holy Melchizedek Priesthood. Thus was restored to earth that priesthood which is so distinctive of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints today.
The True Test of Priesthood Claims
It may not seem unusual to the student of religion to find the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints claiming the restoration of the authority of Christ. Certainly some other Christian churches claim such authority. Some claim continuous authority since the days of Christ. The majority of the Christian creeds contend that no actual conferring of authority is necessary; that all those who in their heart desire to teach the gospel to others are authorized by their own desire to do the work of the Lord. Hence, from the standpoint alone of the claim of the Church, perhaps the outsider might pay little attention to the priesthood organization. There is, however, a very definite test by which the priesthood of God may be known upon the earth. It was the test given by the Savior Himself in the day that He lived in the flesh among men. He was aware that many might rise up and profess to do acts in His name and he said to the Prophet Joseph:
“Therefore, as I said unto mine apostles, I say unto you again, that every soul who believeth on your words, and is baptized by water for the remission of sins, shall receive the Holy ghost.
“And these signs shall follow them that believe –
“In my name they shall do many wonderful works;
“In my name they shall cast out devils;
“In my name they shall heal the sick;
“In my name they shall open the eyes of the blind, and unstop the ears of the deaf;
“And the tongue of the dumb shall speak;
“And if any man shall administer poison unto them it shall not hurt them;
“And the poison of a serpent shall not have power to harm them.” (Doc. and Cov. 84:64-72.)
The truth of Joseph Smith’s story does not lie alone in his and Oliver’s testimony. Joseph proclaimed that not only had he and Oliver received authority from God to act in His name, but that the right was given them to confer that authority on others. Then Joseph boldly announced that the acts of those to whom he had given authority would be attested by wonderful works by which the people would know that the Lord had accepted the ordinances done in His name.
In accordance with the Savior’s own word, God does not leave man wondering whether or not His authority may be upon the earth, or whether or not the acts of man and the exercise of that authority have been accepted. But, when ordinances are performed with proper authority, He manifests unto man through the gifts of the spirit that God has recognized the acts of his children. (Read Doc. and Cov. 84:19-22.)
Nothing else was so apparent in the missionary labors of Peter, John and Paul, as the manifestation through the spirit that the word and the work of these men were acceptable unto the Lord. Where these signs followed ordinances performed in the name of God, there could be no doubt concerning the power exercised. If we apply this test to all churches which today profess to have authority from the Lord, the result will be clear and convincing – no church, regardless of its historical chain of evidences, may lay claim to actual authority from God save it also has repeatedly manifested in the church those evidences of God’s acceptance which the Savior indicated should follow His authority. It is by this test that the proof to Joseph Smith’s assertions can be found, and by this test the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is willing to be judged.
Gifts of the Spirit Have Followed the Restoration of the Priesthood
Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery testified to the effect which the gift of the Holy ghost had upon them. Joseph records, “Our minds being now enlightened we began to have the scriptures laid open to our understanding and the true meaning and intention of the more mysterious passages revealed to us in a manner which we never could obtain to previously, or ever before had thought of.” (Smith, History of the Church, Vol. I, p. 43.) another marked effect of the power of God upon these men is expressed by Joseph in the following statement: “After a few days, feeling it to be our duty, we commenced to reason out the scriptures with our acquaintances and friends as we happened to meet them.” (Ibid. p. 44.) Thus a spirit of missionary work, not previously experienced, came upon those who had thus been partakers of the ordinances of the Church. All of the signs and blessings by which the Savior said his power should be known in the earth are witnessed by the testimonies of Church members.
Faith in God can be no stronger than the evidence upon which it is based. The influence of the Holy Spirit upon the hearts of the members of the church bears undeniable evidence of God’s existence and goodness. With the early apostles the Holy Ghost gave them such assurance that they were willing to die rather than forsake their testimony, and, when asked wherein his great testimony was gained, Paul the Apostle wrote: “No man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy ghost.” (I cor. 12:3.)
The realization that man cannot of himself come to know that Jesus is the Christ is portrayed in the gospel of Matthew. Here it is recorded that the Savior asked Peter, “Whom do ye say that I am?” Peter answered him, “Thou art the Christ, the son of the living God.” In response to that answer, Jesus is quoted as saying, “Blessed art thou Simon Barjona, for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in Heaven.” (Matt. 16:16-17.)
While great faith in God can be had through a study of the experiences of other people with Him, by an observance of nature about us, and by the exercise of reason, there can be no certainty in man’s heart without that assurance which comes from God through the gift of the Holy Ghost. It was this divine assurance that gave the early Christian Church its strength and accounts for its success. It is this same divine assurance that distinguishes the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints today. Aside from the realization that Mormon people definitely know that God is, one can neither understand the history nor the sacrifices which Mormon people have made, and are willing to make, in behalf of the Church. This blessing of faith is one of the outstanding gifts of the Holy Ghost. It is the means whereby tens of thousands of the members of the Church know of themselves, and not because of the words of Joseph Smith or Oliver Cowdery, that the gospel is true, that this it he Church of Christ, and that His power is upon the earth.
The Gift of Healing
The gift of healing, exercised by Christ while in the flesh, and prevalent among His apostles after his crucifixion, is a power of the priesthood, a sign of God that His authority is among men. Healings brought about by the laying on of hands of those holding priesthood are prevalent in the church, and examples may be found on every hand. This administration of the sick by the authority and with the power of God and the healings which follow must not be confused with healings which are effected among men by the mere application of pure psychological principles. True, the underlying psychology back of healing plays a part in the administration of the sick by the servants of God. No one will deny that the power of the mind over the body is so strong as to often produce illness or to eliminate it. Remarkable healings are effected by restoring confidence and faith in those who are ill, because this state of mind reacts favorably upon the functioning of the body.
But the great healings of Jesus Christ during His earthly ministry cannot be explained on purely psychological principles. They remain forever a puzzle save we recognize a healing power in God which can be administered and controlled by those holding His Holy Priesthood. Mankind has not understood nor mastered all the mental and physical conditions which disrupt bodily functions. Startling discoveries in recent years of new healing agencies have opened the mind to the possibilities of still other healing agencies. Just as there are healing properties in the light from the sun when properly administered, so there is healing power in the Spirit of God, which, when properly used, restores health in a remarkable manner.
The Gift of Prophecy
Another evidence of the power of God among men in the primitive church was the gift of prophecy which the apostles possessed. This gift has disappeared from the Christian world in general and yet it is one of those blessings specifically mentioned by Jesus which would follow those who believed. There are, of course, many people throughout the world who make prophecies in the name of religion and some perhaps in the name of the Lord. Only time will discern the truth or falsity of their claims. One thing is apparent, however: the gift of prophecy has followed the restoration of the authority of God in these latter days. Joseph Smith made many predictions, some of which have been fulfilled and some are yet to be fulfilled. These prophecies were made by the gift and power of God and are remarkable in their clearness and insight.
The Gift of Tongues
As in the days of Jesus, many in His Church today have experienced, either in themselves or in others, the power to speak in tongues and to interpret tongues. This gift is greatly misunderstood by the world, many contending that speaking in tongues refers to unintelligible babblings. Speaking in tongues has a purpose. Ordinarily its purpose is to enable the speaker to convey a message to those whose language is different from his own. It was for such purpose that the apostles of old exercised this gift on the day of Pentecost, speaking in the various languages of Jews who had gathered from foreign lands. In our time, missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, when filled with the spirit of their calling, have often spoken in a language they did not previously know. This gift has enabled listeners to obtain their message. On rare instances, individuals have been known to speak in tongues when this was not the purpose. These instances always occur among small groups of the faithful and the experience is a witness of God to them. Interpretation of tongues by the gift and power of God has also been experienced in the church. Frequently individuals who have not been able to understand the language of another, have – out of their desire to know – found themselves able to understand the foreign tongue used.
Callings Within the Priesthood
While there is only one priesthood of God, which is the Priesthood of Jesus Christ, there are many offices and callings within that priesthood. An analogous situation may be found in studying the government of a nation. In a particular country there is but one general government and all authority to act in the name of that country must come through a direct line from the governing powers. But there is a wide difference in callings. One man may be called and given authority to direct international affairs, another, domestic affairs, another to judge civil disputes, another to carry on investigations, etc. Thus, in the government of God, authority may be given to act in God’s name in different capacities and powers. There are two great divisions of those powers.
“The power and authority of the higher, or Melchizedek Priesthood, is to hold the keys of all the spiritual blessings of the Church –
“To have the privilege of receiving the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, to have the heavens opened unto them, to commune with the general assembly and church of the First-born, and to enjoy the communion and presence of God the Father, and Jesus the mediator of the new covenant.
“The power and authority of the lesser, or Aaronic Priesthood, is to hold the keys of the ministering of angels, and to administer in outward ordinances, the letter of the gospel, the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, agreeable to the covenants and commandments.” (Doc. and Cov. 107:18-20.)
The Aaronic Priesthood is sometimes called the Levitical or lesser Priesthood. It is called Aaronic because Aaron, the brother of Moses, was called to preside over those holding the Lesser Priesthood in his day, and his name came to be applied to it. It is referred to as the Levitical Priesthood because, during Aaron’s day and for centuries following, only members of the tribe of Levi (one of the twelve tribes of Israel) were called to serve in it or were ordained to it. It is called the Lesser Priesthood because the Higher, or Melchizedek, Priesthood when upon the earth has authority or directing power over it. (Ibid., 107:14.) Within the Aaronic Priesthood are three callings, those of deacon, teacher, and priest; and each calling has its separate duties and powers. These duties and powers were explained by revelation to Joseph Smith shortly before the organization of the Church. (Read Doc. and Cov. 20:39-60; 76:57; 107:1-6, 9-10, 34.)
All of our knowledge of the various duties and callings of the priesthood has been restored by revelation in these latter days. It is not to be found in the Bible or in the literature of any of the so-called Christian Churches.
The Restoration of the Church
Power to organize a Church Rests in the Priesthood
Without the priesthood upon the earth, the Church of Christ could not be established. With the priesthood restored, the power was on the earth to organize a church and officiate in the ordinances of the gospel. Accordingly, Joseph Smith looked forward to the day when God should instruct him to organize His Church.
The Church a Spiritual Democracy
On April 6, 1830, in the house of Peter whitmer, at Fayette, New York State, a small group of individuals met for the purpose of formally establishing a Church. Six of those present affixed their signatures to the Articles of Incorporation, as required by the State of New York for the organization of a church or benevolent society. None of these six had had previous experience in the organization of religious bodies. None had been instructed by learned men on the principles necessary to an organization’s success, nor was any guidance sought through the ordinary channels. Yet there was pronounced on that day the basic principles of a spiritual democracy which sacrificed neither the efficiency of central authority nor the personal growth which feeds upon democracy.
Joseph Smith on that day pronounced two fundamentals of Church government which have proved monumental. First, the authority (priesthood) in the Church of Jesus Christ comes only from Jesus Christ and none may hold any office or authority save as they are called by Him directly or bu those previously called by authority to act in His stead. Second, no man, though he be called of God, may preside over his brethren, except with the consent of his brethren, and no decision shall be binding upon the people of the Church except with their common consent. (Doc. and Cov. 20:63, 65-66.) These two concepts of church government have guaranteed both efficiency and democracy in the Church. Without the first, authority from God to officiate and act in His name could not be preserved; and, without the second, man’s free agency would be destroyed.
If men, by aspiring to church office and securing the support of their friends, were elected to office they would hold position by virtue of that election and not by virtue of being called of God to serve Him. They would be in fact forcing their services upon God and would be expecting recognition of their acts by a Being who never called them to act. By such an arrangement, the whole theory of agency upon which priesthood rests would be destroyed. If the officers of the Church are to have their acts done in the name of the Lord binding upon Him, they must hold authority or agency from the Lord to perform those acts. But authority in one person to act in the name of another cannot be presumed; it can come only from the person represented and hence b his call or appointment.
In the true church of Christ no man may aspire to office. There can be no candidates. All who occupy positions are called to them by those who hold authority of Jesus Christ so to do.
The second fundamental of Church government is equally important to the welfare of the church members – the common consent of the members of the Church in all matters pertaining to them. No person called to office, whether the highest or lowest in the Church, may officiate or function in that office save those under him vote to sustain and support him in that position. Even after he has been once sustained, the democratic principle continues. At regular intervals, his name is presented to the people in order that they may express by vote their desires to sustain or reject him. If the majority reject him, he may not officiate or act further in the capacities of his office, though retaining the office until those who called him release him and call another in his stead.
The democratic principle preserves the God-given right of free agency, preserves harmony in the Church, and prevents any long continuation in office by those who have proven unworthy.
In announcing these great principles to his people, Joseph Smith placed in their hands the power to strip him of office whenever in their eyes his exercise of authority ceased to be in righteousness. Thus, from the highest to the least, no person may govern in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints except he be called of God and sustained by the people over whom he is called to preside.
In the Church there is no fixed tenure of office, nor any particular class entitled to office. Any person in the Church may be called to a position of responsibility and authority. Joseph Smith brushed aside all class lines, declaring in words of soberness that “God is no respecter of persons.” Rich and poor, bond and free, learned and unlearned, male and female, meet and worship in common brotherhood and are judged by a common standard. While men and women are called to labor in different positions according to their several capacities and circumstances, neither birth nor social prominence nor money becomes a criterion for selection.
To those holding the priesthood the Lord has said:
“The rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and … the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.
“That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake 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, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood, or the authority of that man. …
“No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long suffering, by gentleness, and meekness, and by love unfeigned;
“By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy and without guile.
“Reproving betimes with sharpness when moved upon by the Holy ghost, and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy;
“That he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death;
“Lest 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 distill upon thy soul as the dews from heaven.
“The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy sceptre an unchanging sceptre of righteousness and truth, and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever.” (Ibid., 121:36-46.)
It is significant that the principles of priesthood and church government enunciated by Joseph Smith as coming from the Lord have worked successfully without alterations throughout all the changes which the past century has produced. They function as well in a church of eight hundred thousand members as in a church of a dozen members. They will be as applicable to millions. They are as workable in a widely scattered church as in a geographically compact one. They find successful application in any country, and among the people of any nationality or mixture of nationalities. This has been true because the principles have been tested in the crucible of eternity and were revealed unto Joseph Smith by the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.