Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Priesthood: A Very Big Deal for Mormons


From the LDS perspective, the priesthood is essential to our faith and to the LDS experience. We believe that the original and the restored Church of Jesus Christ required authority given by God in order to teach, baptize, and conduct other ordinances in the name of God. It is not enough to want to serve or to feel a call--one must be called by those having authority from Jesus Christ, just as Peter and other disciples were called by Christ and Hus authorized representatives. Priesthood authority was essential for the Restoration and is essential for the daily operations of the Church. At a personal level, members can receive priesthood blessings from priesthood holders who may be the father in a family, missionaries, a bishop, or others. These priesthood blessings, using the Old and New Testament concept of blessings by the laying on of hands, can be for healing, comfort, and guidance. For many of us, priesthood blessings have been an important part of our lives and somethings that we are deeply grateful for.

Here's a brief Mormon Messages video about the priesthood.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

He said twice that he priesthood was available to all but all the priests were men.

He also specifically said the priesthood was available to Blacks and the still image selected to identify this video is a Black family but Blacks couldn't hold the priesthood you identify as "essential" from the time of Brigham Young until 1978.

Doesn't it all seem more than a little disingenuous?

Virginia Brown said...

He said, as you know, that the BLESSINGS of the priesthood are available to all. So they are, and so they have been since the priesthood was restored.

In old testament times, the priesthood was only held by members of the tribe of Levi, but through them the BLESSINGS of the priesthood were available to all of the Children of Israel. But you know that.

Jeff Lindsay said...

Virginia, thanks for that point. The blessings of the Gospel come through priesthood power, and these blessings have always been available to all, both men and women, blacks and whites, as 2 Nephi 26:33 points out, even when the right to officiate in the church has been limited over the ages and is still limited to males now. But I'm very grateful that old, troublesome, and unclear policy that gave temporary restrictions on the priesthood was lifted in 1978 so that males of all lineages can officiate in it.

jackg said...

I understand the Mormon emphasis on priesthood authority. It is necessary for Mormons to believe that only the LDS Church has true priesthood authority. As far as the LDS claim goes, it is what sets them apart from all other faiths. Would this be a fair statement, or am I somehow misrepresenting LDS teaching on this matter? I will proceed as if the statement is indeed fair. :)


Virginia brings up the argument that the priesthood was confined to one tribe, the Levites, and that it was through the Levites that the other tribes were blessed. We must, however, consider the role of the Levitical priesthood: it was to carry out the sacrificial system. This system looked forward to the coming of Jesus Christ, the Sacrificial Lamb who would die for the sins of the world. Focusing on "blessings" in this context is, to my way of thinking, a bit overstated. There will be those who agree with me and those who won't. But, I think this emphasis on "blessings" rather than the actual work that took place is important for the LDS faith because it sets the stage to make the claim that something that was lost was restored. The problem I see with this proposition is that there is still a tribe of Levi that cannot carry out their Old Testament duties because there is no more temple, which was destroyed at the time of Christ's crufixion. The reason this is so is because such temple work provided by the Levites is no longer necessary. The Sacrificial Lamb has come, died, and resurrected, rendering the temple and its purpose unnecessary because its purpose was fulfilled.

When we talk about priesthood authority, we can't ignore the claim by the Catholics that Peter became the first pope in Matthew 15:13-19. After all, Jesus says: "...you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church...I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (vv 18, 19). I think the Catholics can make a strong argument for their position.

Peter is a central figure in this debate. Let's look at what he says about priesthood: "As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being build up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ...But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellences of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light" (1 Peter 2: 4-5, 9).

We in the Christian body are a priesthood of believers. Peter makes the point, himself. When I was a Mormon, I fought against this teaching; however, I can't deny the word of God on this point.

I know there will be arguments against my position. I expect it. I just want to say that I don't have to believe in JS and anything he taught to be saved in God's Kingdom. All I have to believe is that Jesus is indeed the Messiah, and proclaim it as Peter did. I am a member of the priesthood of believers, and have been called to "proclaim the excellences of him who called (me) out of darkness into his marvelous light."

Peace and blessings...

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately the film was not representative of the church at all. The Church leadership is still all white with very few exceptions. At general conference there a couple tokens in the choir.

Unfortunately with a leadership that is sometimes very unkind it is hard to want to go to heaven. I reference local leadership.

I can't imagine blacks wanting to be a part of the church. It must be very difficult.

While the church boasts many members in South America etc. they are forced to sing hymns heavily steeped in the European tradition. Why are they not allowed to sing in their Native tradition?

The Church is very non bending for their people who do not fit in the "slot".

Anonymous said...

"I can't imagine blacks wanting to be a part of the church. It must be very difficult."

Previous anonymous, you should visit my congregation in Florida sometime. We have many black members who actively and happily participate, teach, and lead.

I believe that the restrictions of the priesthood are indefensible, but are practically irrelevant today. The troubled history of race and the church are just that: Troubled History. The day-to-day reality of my congregation are people loving and serving and trying to be Christian, regardless of race.

Anonymous said...

And those blacks have left their traditional values an families to be in the LDS church. They are often referred to as "white wannabes" by their families and friends.

Anonymous said...

Jackg -

Peter is not offering a discourse on priesthood or church government; he's speaking generally about the church members' obligations and privileges in their new walk with God by drawing an analogy to the role of priests in the Jewish temple. In that context, the reference to "priesthood" could be either literal or metaphor.

Your larger point would be more convincing if the priesthood mentioned in the Bible pertained only to the Mosaic sacrificial ordinances--if the Levitical priesthood were the only order of priesthood mentioned in the Bible.

But that isn't the case.

Anonymous said...

I have never met a black person inside of the church who had to leave any traditions or values behind unless the were Muslim before they converted. That's not only a demonstratively false statement but also quite obviously disingenuous.

Anonymous said...

@ Virginia: Sure, I get it it. The BLESSINGS of the priesthood are available to all even though the priesthood itself is not available to all.

Kinda like the BLESSINGS of freedom were available to all in the slaveholding South, even if freedom itself was not available to all. Why would anyone possibly complain?

Seriously, don't the "blessings" of the priesthood include the opportunities of church leadership, and the increased social authority, etc., etc., that the priesthood makes available? Jeff's post, and Virginia's dodge of its basic flaw, are indeed disingenuous.

Anonymous said...

anyone who thinks leadership positions in the church are in and of themselves blessing has never held one. While the Lord definitely rewards you for fulfilling those callings, they themselves are always hard and painful experiences with equal lows as there are highs. Also no the blessings of freedom were not available to the slaves, the blessings of the priesthood were, just as Virginia and Jeff have said.

jackg said...

anonymous,

Your argument that Peter is using an analogy is difficult to see. We who are believers are the priesthood. Priests are called to serve. We who are believers in Jesus Christ are called to serve in various ways according to our gifts and graces. There is no sacrificial system other than sacrificing our own lives so that we might bless others.

Blessings...

Anonymous said...

Anonomous,

Christians/blacks who convert leave many many traditions. Including some started by the Savior. Wednesday lent, maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Christmas celebrations in and with Church. Celebrating the miracle of the Eucherist, the mystery of the HolyTrinity.

And the new tradition they get is a picnic in July.

Anonymous said...

Jackg--

Peter talks of the church members as stones (metaphor) building a house/temple (metaphor) of which Jesus is the chief cornerstone (metaphor) and in which are offered sacrifices (metaphor). In that context, it's a stretch to interpret Peter's reference to "priesthood" as literal unless you've wanted to read it that way from the outset. Maybe if Peter went on to call his audience the priesthood, you'd have a stronger case. But he doesn't--he calls them a priesthood.

And you've completely missed my points that a) the Levitical priesthood was not the only priesthood mentioned in the Bible; and b) that offering Mosaic sacrifice was not the only biblical priesthood function.

jackg said...

anonymous,

I guess you can use the word "metaphor" to weaken the power of the message of the Bible. That is your prerogative. I do, however, think it's misguided and causes you to miss the very important teachings regarding priesthood. Don't forget that metaphors are used to clarify and strengthen a teaching. What was Peter clarifying and strengthening? The fact that we who follow Jesus Christ are a priesthood of believers, and Jesus is the only High Priest.

Blessings...

Anonymous said...

Jeff, did God inspire the policy toward blacks? I mean, he 'lifted' the ban which means he was ok with until he the long awaited day. I never understood this. Was it a mistake? To call it unclear or troublesome doctrine just doesn't do it. Was it right or wrong?

Jeff Lindsay: said...

The origins of that policy are definitely unclear. There is no indication that it was a revelation. It was a policy, not doctrine, and I am glad it has been withdrawn.