Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (inadvertently referred to as the Mormon Church by the media and others) define the term “priesthood” as the eternal power and authority of God. It is through the power of the Priesthood that God, our Heavenly Father, created and governs the universe. And, it is through the power of the Priesthood that He redeems and exalts His children, thus fulfilling His Divine purposes, or in other words, His work and His glory, which is “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39.)
Priesthood power and authority is bestowed by God upon worthy male members of The Church of Jesus Christ beginning at the young age of 12 years. With that power and authority, they are able to act in His name for the salvation of His children. Those honorable bearers of the royal priesthood are imbued with power to preach the gospel, administer the ordinances necessary for salvation, and govern the Kingdom of God on earth.
No man receives this power unto himself. This power is conferred upon him by one who is a worthy priesthood holder who is authorized to lay his hands upon the recipient of the priesthood and ordain him to an office in the priesthood. For as the Apostle Paul taught in the epistle to the Hebrews, “And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron” (Hebrews 5:4.) Modern day revelation as recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants (D&C) gives further instruction on ordaining a man to the priesthood. In D&C 42:11 the Lord gives this counsel to the Church:
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 be noted that although the power of the priesthood is bestowed upon worthy male members of The Church of Jesus Christ, the blessing of the priesthood is available to all members of the Church – men, women, and children.
Power in the Priesthood
H. Burke Peterson once stated, “Power in the priesthood, the power to bless and guide and teach, the power to forgive and forget, the power to give positive direction to a family comes through righteousness. The laying on of hands we all received is not enough. Priesthood power comes to those prepared to receive it as a result of the righteous patterns of their lives. (H. Burke Peterson, Prepare the Heart of Your Son, Ensign, November 1982, p.43.) J. Reuben Clark, Jr. once said, “The Church is the organized Priesthood of God, the priesthood can exist without the Church, but the Church cannot exist without the priesthood” (J. Reuben Clark, Jr., Educating Zion – The Charted Course of the Church in Education, October 1950.) And it was Elder Bruce R. McConkie in his April 1982 General Conference address, delivered during the Priesthood session, titled The Doctrine of the Priesthood who taught, “The doctrine of the priesthood is known only by personal revelation. It comes, line upon line and precept upon precept, by the power of the Holy Ghost to those who love and serve God with all of their heart, might, mind and strength.” In that same address, he stated, “Priesthood is power like none other on earth or in heaven. It is the very power of God himself, the power by which the worlds were made, the power by which all things are regulated, upheld, and preserved. It is the power of faith, the faith by which the Father creates and governs. . . . Faith and Priesthood go hand in hand. Faith is power and power is priesthood.”
Further clarification concerning the priesthood being used only in righteousness is recorded in scriptures which reveal modern day revelation. In D&C 121:41-46 are recorded these words of instruction:
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. Let 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 distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven. The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever.
15 May 1829 – Restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood
Imagine if you will, what a wonderful experience this restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood must have been for Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery when John the Baptist spoke to them. Here, standing before them, was a man who had lived upon the earth more than 1,800 years earlier. He was speaking in English to two young men while he held his hands upon their heads. His was a resurrected body. Theirs were mortal bodies. They felt his hands and understood the words that he spoke. This tells us that resurrected beings are tangible, that they can move and act, and that they can speak and be understood.
Among other things, he told them, that while the authority that he had given them authorized them to baptize, it did not include the authority to bestow the Holy Ghost. He indicated that another order of the priesthood was necessary for this, and that it would subsequently be given them by Peter, James, and John.
That marvelous event did take place when the Melchizedek Priesthood [the greater priesthood], or the Holy Priesthood after the Order of the Son of God was restored. We do not know exactly where the event took place, but we learn from the description given in D&C 128:20 that Peter, James, and John appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery “in the wilderness between Harmony, Susquehanna County, and Colesville, Broome County, on the Susquehanna River.” We do not know the exact date that this event took place; however, by piecing together various accounts and bits of history, we may assume that it occurred in June 1829.
In D&C 27:12-14 we are given some insight concerning this greater priesthood. We read these words:
And also with Peter, and James, and John, whom I have sent unto you, by whom I have ordained you and confirmed you to be apostles, and especial witnesses of my name, and bear the keys of your ministry and of the same things which I revealed unto them; Unto whom I have committed the keys of my kingdom, and a dispensation of the gospel for the last times; and for the fulness of times, in the which I will gather together in one all things, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; And also with all those whom my Father hath given me out of the world.
The Fullness of the Everlasting Gospel Has Been Restored
The Priesthood was restored upon the earth, and today everyone has the privilege and the opportunities to partake of the many blessings of the Priesthood. Gordon B. Hinckley, the 15th President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commented on one of the Lord’s reasons for endowing mortal men with the power and authority of the priesthood:
In a revelation given in 1831, which has become Section 1 of the Doctrine and Covenants and is known as the preface to that book of revelation, the Lord set forth one of the great purposes for the restoration of the gospel in this the dispensation of the fullness of times. He said that, among other reasons, the gospel was restored so that “every man might speak in the name of God the Lord, even the Savior of the world.” (Doctrine and Covenants 1:20.)
It does not say that every man shall speak in the name of God the Lord. The meaning is that every man may speak, provided he is worthy and receives the priesthood. (Gordon B. Hinckley, Priesthood Restoration, Ensign, Oct. 1988, 69)
In his address given during the 154th Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Elder Bruce R. McConkie, then serving as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (the second-highest presiding group within the LDS Church), proclaimed to the congregation:
Be it known to all men, let it be proclaimed by the very trump of God, let angelic choirs sing of its wonders and glory, let all the hosts of men stand in awe as the voice from heaven declares that God has in these last days restored the fullness of his everlasting gospel.
Let every eye see, every ear hear, every heart be penetrated – for the voice of God is heard again. Angels again are coming from the courts of glory to declare eternal truths to mortal men. The gift of the Holy Ghost is being poured out upon the faithful, and thousands again shout praises to the Holy One of Israel (Bruce R. McConkie, The Caravan Moves On, Ensign, November 1984.)
What then, are the end result, blessing and objective of the priesthood restoration? President Lorenzo Snow once stated, “The object of the priesthood is to make all men happy, to diffuse information, to make all partakers of the same blessings in their turn.” (JD, 9:22.) President Brigham Young stated, “The priesthood of the Son of God is the law by which the worlds are, were, and will continue forever and ever. It is that system that brings worlds into existence and peoples them, gives them their revolution—their days, weeks, months, years, their seasons and times by which they are rolled up as a scroll, as it were, and go into a higher state of existence.” (JD, 15:127.)