A Royal Priesthood
The apostle Peter was addressing the early worthy members of Christ’s Church when he called them a “royal priesthood”:
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…(1 Peter 2:9).
Although some friends of other faiths think Christ was the great and last high priest, although He is the greatest high priest, the priesthood continued under His apostles even after Christ’s great sacrifice. Priests were called as the apostles were called, from their worldly vocations, to serve in Christ’s Church. This pattern, and the priesthood authority and power, have been restored in these latter days, the dispensation of preparation for the Second Coming of Christ.
In Christ’s ancient church there was no paid clergy. Although Christ’s followers were originally considered a sect of Judaism, Jesus never called any member of the paid Jewish clergy to administer in His Church. Instead, seeing into the hearts of men, He called fishermen and publicans to be His under-shepherds. This is also the pattern in Christ’s Church today. There is no professional clergy in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, often inadvertently referred to as the Mormon Church. All worthy men are eligible to hold some measure of priesthood, which is the power and authority to act in the name of God, a portion of the power by which God runs the universe. Women share in this power, and it is by and through this power that every spiritual gift named in the Bible abounds in this, Christ’s true and living Church.
Administration and Ministration in the Mormon Priesthood
Nowadays, people seek spirituality as they shy away from organized religion. This is in most part due to disappointment with religious organizations of our time and with the professional clergy of those churches. God’s true Church, however, does exist on the earth, and it is remarkable because it has been organized by the Savior Himself through modern prophets, according to the organization of Christ’s ancient church. In other words, God’s church should be the most organized religion on earth, and it is.
The administration of The Church of Jesus Christ is managed through the Church’s lay clergy. At the top is the prophet, the apostles, and the seventies, just as in biblical times. There are seventies over various areas of the world who oversee not only congregations (wards) and administered groups of congregations (stakes), but missions administered by mission presidents. The prophet, apostles, and first two quorums of the seventy serve for life once they are called out of their worldly vocations. Other seventies, bishops who lead congregations, and stake presidents who lead groups of congregations, usually serve in their positions for about 5 years. Experienced leaders train new leaders. Manuals and teaching materials are correlated and are the same world-wide, as are teaching schedules and activities. The Church is the same wherever you go, and congregations are organized by locality, so members don’t flock to leaders with charisma. The prophet and apostles and a few other higher leaders who serve long-term may receive a financial stipend if they need it (most don’t), but all other positions in the church are entirely unpaid. This prevents “priestcraft,” or preaching for gain. Mormons are counseled not to aspire to positions and reminded that “calls” to serve come from God through the promptings of the Holy Ghost to those who have stewardship over them. As a woman in the Church who has served in many callings of great responsibility, I can testify that God does indeed choose Mormons for callings through their leaders, as I have taken those names to my bishop. I received them through inspiration, and he confirmed them through inspiration.
Administration of The Church of Jesus Christ is shared by men and women. While men are apostles, seventies, mission presidents, bishops and stake presidents, women head the Relief Society (women’s organization – over 6 million strong), Young Women, and Primary (children’s organization) of the Church. Administration on the local level follows the same pattern. All welfare requests go through both the Relief Society President and the Bishop of a congregation. On the general church level, female leaders counsel with male leaders before and after decisions are made through revelation.
Ministering is also a shared responsibility, since service is the watchword for Mormons. A great deal of good is performed by both men and women in the Church, both in planned service and spontaneous, private service:
Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness…(Doctrine and Covenants 58:27)
Offices of the Mormon Priesthood
As at the time of Christ, there are two priesthoods, the greater (Melchizedek) and the lesser (Aaronic) priesthoods. The formal name of the higher priesthood is The Holy Priesthood after the Order of the Son of God. It is called the Melchizedek Priesthood (after Melchizedek, King of Salem, and great high priest of the Old Testament) to keep from using the name of deity too often. It is referred to numerous times in the New Testament. It is the priesthood the apostles held that enabled them to perform miracles of healing and other manifestations of God’s power. This same power with the same results is fully manifest on the earth today in God’s true church.
Worthy young men as young as age 12 may become Aaronic priesthood holders as Deacons and at 14 may become Teachers, and at 16, Priests. A priest can baptize and bless the sacrament (like the Eucharist). The Aaronic priesthood deals with the foundational principles of the gospel — repentance and sacrifice — and holds the keys to the ministering of angels.
Worthy young men as young as 18 may be ordained to the Holy Melchizedek Priesthood. Male Mormon missionaries receive this priesthood and make higher covenants in Mormon temples before they depart for missionary service. Thus, while not holding the same administrative position in The Church of Jesus Christ as an apostle, they do hold the same priesthood power, just not the same keys for exercising it, nor the same callings in which to use it.
Women and the Priesthood
It is through priesthood power that miracles happen. When people say there is power in prayer, it is the priesthood power that makes things happen — God’s priesthood, Christ’s priesthood. Although women do not heal others through the laying on of hands as a pattern in the Church, through temple covenants, women share in the priesthood power of their husbands and may bring forth miracles through prayer. They often receive revelation for guiding their families and performing their callings in the Church.
Women also exercise priesthood authority within the walls of Mormon temples, sealing ordinances upon other women there. In the eternities, women will share every blessing and power with their husbands as priestesses to the Most High God, if they merit exaltation into His presence and become co-heirs with Christ. There is no disadvantage to women in the assigning of men to certain positions of administration in the Church or to certain kinds of ministration in the Church.
What all worthy Mormons yearn for is to eventually have their “calling and election made sure.” This is to receive by the sealing power of Elijah, the assurance that one will be sealed up to eternal life in the presence of the Father. Women have all the power they need to eventually reach this point. The more they progress in their attributes to become more like the Savior, the closer they get to the point where they can see Christ and know that He lives and be assured of eternal life.
As a Mormon woman married in the temple to a worthy Mormon priesthood holder, I have had many years of experience both in service and in receiving the myriad blessings of the priesthood. When I or one of my children have been ill or confused, my husband has exercised his priesthood power through the laying on of hands to give us priesthood blessings of comfort and healing. Many of these have been prophetic and have given us guidance to help us into the future. I have also been able to call upon this shared power to heal my children or better understand them, through prayer. These healings have been great. I am the daughter of a mother with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and her mother was likewise afflicted. Through the very real priesthood power, I have been healed of every injury —emotional, spiritual, and psychological — caused by that situation. The priesthood is one of my greatest blessings. I can’t imagine life without it.