The Mormon Priesthood
The “Priesthood,” according to the doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is the power and authority of God delegated to men to act in His sacred name for the blessing of His children. (See True to the Faith, Priesthood).
The Priesthood is one of the important elements of the true church and of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is God’s power, the governing power of the universe. Through the Priesthood all things were created. The Church puts much emphasis on the importance of the Priesthood. The delegation of this authority from God to those who are authorized servants of God will validate every ordinance of the gospel performed in the Church God and in His most sacred place of worship, the temple.
God personally chooses His servants to act in His name and to hold the Priesthood. For example, in the New Testament the Lord said,
Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you. 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. (New Testament, John 15:14-16).
Those who hold the Priesthood are qualified of God, meaning they live in harmony with the teachings of the fullness of His everlasting gospel. They are endeavoring to be an example of righteousness to all people, since they are authorized representatives of God. In the Church of Jesus Christ, and according to instruction received from God through direct revelation, this sacred priesthood is divided into two parts: the Aaronic Priesthood and the Melchizedek Priesthood.
The Aaronic Priesthood is a preparatory priesthood that precedes the greater, which is the Melchizedek Priesthood.
It is called the lesser priesthood because it is an appendage to the greater, or the Melchizedek Priesthood, and has power in administering outward ordinances. 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. (Doctrine and Covenants, 107:14, 20).
Worthy male members of the Church beginning at age 12 are given the responsibility to hold the Aaronic priesthood and to administer the outward ordinances of the gospel, such as the passing, preparing, and blessing of the sacred emblems of the Sacrament. There are different offices in the Aaronic priesthood namely: Bishop (who is the leader of a Mormon congregation), Deacon (ages 12 and13), Teacher (ages 14 and 15), and Priest (ages 16 and 17).
The Melchizedek Priesthood covers all of the functions of the Aaronic priesthood and then adds to it.
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 Firstborn, and to enjoy the communion and presence of God the Father, and Jesus the mediator of the new covenant (Doctrine and Covenants 107:18-19).
As early as at the age of 18, male members of the Church are being prepared to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood and be ordained an Elder, one of its offices. Bishops and higher leaders hold the office of High Priest. Other offices are Apostle, Seventy, and Patriarch.
Under God’s direction, Priesthood power is administered to those who are sick and afflicted by the laying on of hands. Elders in the LDS Church use this power as it was used by the apostles of old. They may confer the gift of the Holy Ghost, heal under the direction of God through the Holy Ghost, ordain others to the higher priesthood, cast out evil spirits, or give prophetic counsel. An Elder who holds the higher priesthood uses it within his realm of responsibility, often called one’s “stewardship,” since God’s house is a house of order. Therefore, a father, who has stewardship over his family, may give priesthood blessings to his wife and children by the laying on of hands. Thus, the healing power of God may be called upon at a time of illness, or to comfort the weary.
Once in a lifetime, each member of the Church is able to avail him/her-self of a “Patriarchal Blessing,” which can only be given by a man who is a “Patriarch,” an office of the Melchizedek Priesthood. There is only one patriarch called for each stake in the LDS Church. (A stake is a group of congregations administered by called stake leaders.) A patriarchal blessing reveals one’s lineage in Israel and offers prophetic advice as a map for one’s life.
1) See True to the Faith, Priesthood
2) New Testament, John 15:14-16
3) Doctrine and Covenants, 107:14, 20
4) Doctrine and Covenants 107:18-19