How is the beginning of your Sabbath day? We’re hoping for a high of 70, and maybe a good look at the sun, too! May you be blessed with all you stand in need of this day.
Today, I’d like to chat a little more about the priesthood. I talked somewhat about it before, but having recently tried to explain all the areas covered by it to a non-LDS friend, I thought maybe others might like to understand a little better, too.
The first thing to understand is that there is nothing done in the church which is not done through the authority of either the Aaronic Priesthood or the Melchizedek Priesthood. We don’t perform any ordinances, such as baptism, gift of the holy ghost, marriage, callings, settings apart or even passing the sacrament without the priesthood authority and involvement required.
Any priesthood is the eternal power and authority of God. It is the power by which He created and governs the heavens and the earth. It is also the power by which He redeems and exalts His children. He gives a portion of His priesthood power and authority to worthy men so they can preach the gospel, administer the ordinances of salvation, and govern His kingdom on earth. That’s right, women are not priesthood holders. So what? Men are not child bearers. Different purposes in life require different service and different preparation. Women govern their homes and church auxiliaries without the priesthood, and you can make of that what you will. We are aided by the authority of God, bestowed in settings apart and blessings given us by priesthood holders.
You might ask why there are two priesthoods. That’s a logical question. There always were two priesthoods in ancient times. The first, today’s topic, you may be more familiar with from the Bible, because most ordinances from the Old Testament involved the lesser, or Aaronic Priesthood, or the priesthood after the order of Aaron. You might remember that Aaron was the brother of Moses. Also, he was of the tribe of Levi, the ones who traditionally perform priesthood ordinances after their calling in Exodus 28. This is sometimes referred to as the Levitical priesthood.
Exodus 28:1 – And take thou unto thee Aaron thy brother, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel, that he may minister unto me in the priest’s office, even Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, Aaron’s sons.
That’s not the first, nor the last, reference to priesthood in the Bible, but it is when it is recorded that God called certain people and named the priesthood after Aaron. There’s plenty more in Exodus, and being in the Old Testament, before the coming of Christ, the whole ordination thing was pretty intensive, as described in chapter 29. Much simpler once Christ arrived! Any priesthood authorizes men to act for God in some way, to bless His children and help them prepare for exaltation.
We often refer to the various powers given with the priesthood as keys, opening spiritual doors as a house key opens your house or a car key turns the ignition of your car. The keys for the Aaronic Priesthood today are:
- The keys of the ministering of angels. President Gordon B. Hinckley said, “That means, as I interpret it, that if you live worthy of the priesthood, you have the right to receive and enjoy the very power of heavenly beings to guide you, to protect you, to bless you.” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1982, 64; or Ensign, Nov. 1982, 45)
Elder Dallin H. Oaks made the connection to the Holy Ghost. ““Through the Aaronic Priesthood ordinances of baptism and the sacrament, we are cleansed of our sins and promised that if we keep our covenants we will always have His Spirit to be with us. I believe that promise not only refers to the Holy Ghost but also to the ministering of angels, for ‘angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ.” (2 Nephi 32:3)
- The keys of repentance and baptism. John the Baptist preached repentance and baptized people in preparing the way for the Savior. Matthew 3:1-6 – In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judæa, And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
And the same John had his raiment of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey. Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judæa, and all the region round about Jordan, And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.
- In addition to baptism, Aaronic Priesthood holders may officiate in the ordinance of the sacrament. The sacrament is a weekly renewal of baptismal covenants. When we take it worthily, having repented of our sins and with every intention of improving our walk with Christ, then our baptismal covenants are reconfirmed, and we are clean again, as we were at baptism. We promise to take the name of Christ upon us, to remember him and keep his commandments. We are promised in return that his spirit will always be with us.
What spirit is that? John 14:16: And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve said: “We ask you young men of the Aaronic Priesthood to prepare and bless and pass these emblems of the Savior’s sacrifice worthily and reverently. What a stunning privilege and sacred trust given at such a remarkably young age! I can think of no higher compliment heaven could pay you. We do love you. Live your best and look your best when you participate in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1995, 89; or Ensign, Nov. 1995, 68)
The Aaronic Priesthood is generally given to young men beginning at the age of 12. There are slightly different responsibilities that go with each of the above. For instance, in the case of the sacrament, the office of Deacon is 12 – 13 year-old boys, and they pass the sacrament. This may also be done by higher priesthood authority.
The office of Teacher is 14 – 15 year-old boys, and they prepare the sacrament – pour water into the cups and have the bread ready for tearing. The trays are lined up on the sacrament table and covered with a white cloth. This may also be done by higher priesthood authority.
The sacrament prayers are generally offered by the Priests, who are 17 – 18 year olds. It may also be blessed by higher priesthood authority.
Sacrament is just one example of how the responsibility can be divided, each level taking on the job it is spiritually prepared to perform. Is receiving any level of the priesthood automatic because a man achieves a certain age? No, it isn’t. That man has to be morally clean and otherwise worthy of holding the priesthood. There is an interview with the bishop for the Aaronic Priesthood, and questions which must be answered.
Someone joining the church, say at 30, is generally, within a few months, given the office of Priest in the Aaronic Priesthood. If all goes well, he will progress in the priesthood offices as time goes by. There are no set times when anything MUST be done, only ages and times at which things MAY be done.
Next week, I’ll explain a little more about the duties of the Melchizedek Priesthood, named after the high priest to whom Abraham paid his tithes and offerings. Hebrews 7:1-2: For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him; To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace;.