Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints define the priesthood as “the eternal power and authority of God.” Members of the Church undeniably profess that through the priesthood God created and governs the heavens and the earth, and that it is through that power He redeems and exalts His children, bringing to pass “the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39).
[Priesthood] is … the principle and power by which [God] regulates, controls, dictates and manages His affairs, His worlds, His kingdoms, His principalities, His powers, His intelligences, and all things that are underneath Him and above Him, and with which He has to do.
The power manifested by the priesthood is simply the power of God, for he is the head of the priesthood … ; and it is upon this principle that all the works of God have been accomplished, whether on the earth or in the heavens; and any manifestation of power through the priesthood on the earth is simply a delegated power from the priesthood in the heavens, and the more the priesthood on the earth becomes assimilated with and subject to the priesthood in the heavens the more of this power shall we possess.
Latter-day Saints believe that the Biblical miracles performed by prophets and apostles were performed by the power of the priesthood. These include the miracles of Jesus, who holds all of the keys of the priesthood. They further believe that the same priesthood power and authority which existed in Biblical times exists on the earth today. Therefore, Latter-day Saints believe the priesthood to be the power and authority of God, and that wherever that power and authority (and keys) are present, there is the priesthood. Hence, in modern times, the priesthood provides the authority for a priesthood holder to act as a leader in the Church and to perform sacred ordinances. Latter-day Saints further believe that acts (in particular, sacred ordinances) performed by someone holding priesthood authority are recognized by God and are binding in Heaven, on earth, and in the afterlife.
This principle is set forth in the scriptures as recorded in Matthew 16:19, “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.”
Now, the nature of this ordinance consists in the power of the priesthood, by the revelation of Jesus Christ, wherein it is granted that whatsoever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Or, in other words, taking a different view of the translation, whatsoever you record on earth shall be recorded in heaven, and whatsoever you do not record on earth shall not be recorded in heaven; for out of the books shall your dead be judged, according to their own works, whether they themselves have attended to the ordinances in their own propria persona, or by the means of their own agents, according to the ordinance which God has prepared for their salvation from before the foundation of the world, according to the records which they have kept concerning their dead.
In the New Testament book of Revelation, in Revelation 1:6 are recorded these words, “And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.” Who are these “Priests” who comprise this “royal priesthood“? Modern day revelation found in the Doctrine and Covenants, section 76, verses 54 through 60 gives some insight to help answer that question:
They are they who are the church of the Firstborn. They are they into whose hands the Father has given all things— they are they who are priests and kings, who have received of his fulness, and of his glory; and are priests of the Most High, after the order of Melchizedek, which was after the order of Enoch, which was after the order of the Only Begotten Son. Wherefore, as it is written, they are gods, even the sons of God— Wherefore, all things are theirs, whether life or death, or things present, or things to come, all are theirs and they are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s. And they shall overcome all things.
In Matthew 22:14 are recorded these words, “For many are called, but few are chosen.” Latter-day Saint doctrine teaches that in order to exercise priesthood power or authority a person must (1) be called by God, (2) be ordained or endowed with priesthood power by one having proper authority, and (3) receive the necessary priesthood keys, either through ordination to an office or through being set apart.
God gives priesthood authority to worthy male members of the Church so they can act in His name for the salvation of His children. Male members of the Church may begin their Mormon priesthood service when they reach the age of 12. They begin by holding the Aaronic Priesthood, and they later may qualify to have the Melchizedek Priesthood conferred on them. Priesthood holders can be authorized to preach the gospel, administer the ordinances of salvation, and govern the kingdom of God on the earth. As they prepare themselves to receive different responsibilities, they hold different offices in the priesthood, such as deacon, teacher, or priest in the Aaronic Priesthood and elder or high priest in the Melchizedek Priesthood.
The fifth Article of Faith of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints states, “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.” And in the Bible, Hebrews 5:4 reminds us that, “no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.” Therefore, in order for a male member of the Church to hold the priesthood, it must be conferred upon him by an authorized priesthood holder who in turn ordains him to an office in that priesthood. This is further clarified in modern-day scripture as recorded in Doctrine and Covenants, section 42:11, “Again I say unto you, that it shall not be given to any one to go forth to preach my gospel, or to build up my church, except he be ordained by some one who has authority, and it is known to the church that he has authority and has been regularly ordained by the heads of the church.”
It should well be remembered and understood that although the authority of the priesthood is bestowed only on worthy male members of the Church, the blessings of the priesthood are available to all—men, women, and children. Everyone benefits from the influence of righteous priesthood leadership; therefore, everyone has the privilege of receiving the saving ordinances of the priesthood. The most important exercise of the priesthood takes place in the family. Each husband and father in the Church should strive to be worthy to hold the Melchizedek Priesthood. With his wife as an equal partner, he presides in righteousness and love, serving as the spiritual leader of his home. He leads his family in regular prayer, scripture study, and Family Home Evening. He gives priesthood blessings for direction, healing, and comfort. And, realizing that salvation is a family affair, he works with his wife to teach their children and help them prepare to receive the ordinances of salvation. Mormon women perform priesthood ordinances in the temples of God, and the covenants they make in those same holy temples promise an eternal priesthood to every worthy woman in the Church.
In the Bible, in the New Testament, in 1 Peter 2:9 are found these words, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.” As priesthood holders – the “chosen generation” of the “royal priesthood”, the Savior gives this gentle reminder as recorded in the Bible, in John 15:16, “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.”