Note: To those familiar with it, these thoughts are taken from Lecture Five. They are not original with me, but I have tried to summarize them in my own words as I have studied them. Sharing my notes is the way I customarily study doctrine. You will note many of the concepts here do not coincide with current teachings of the LDS Church, but they are all based on scripture. I always welcome dialog and discussion, especially from those who offer studied but opposing views.
Higher Priesthood Received From God
“All priesthood is Melchizedek, but there are different portions or degrees of it. That portion that brought Moses to speak with God face-to-face was taken away, but that which brought the ministry of angels remained. All prophets have the Melchizedek priesthood and were ordained by God himself.” (TPJS 180-181) This is as true today as the day Joseph taught it. According to D&C 84:42, the higher priesthood is conferred by the voice of God to men out of the heavens.
Priesthood Independent of the LDS Church
Joseph is not talking about offices in the LDS Church. Priesthood existed long before the LDS Church was organized. The LDS Church is dependent upon priesthood for authority and power. Apostle, Seventy, High Priest, Elder, Priest, Teacher, Deacon are offices in the Church. They aren’t priesthood at all. They occupy positions in the Church of various church offices, with or without the presence of priesthood. This is not so radical if you think about our LDS history.
Priesthood Existed Before the LDS Church
When John the Baptist appeared and conferred the Aaronic priesthood upon Joseph and Oliver, he had them baptize and then ordain each other. This was in May 1829, long before the church was organized. It is interesting to note the Holy Ghost fell upon Joseph and Oliver in great power immediately after being baptized. They were both filled with the spirit of prophecy. In addition, their minds were enlightened so as to understand the meaning and intention of the scriptures.
Priesthood Received After Exhibiting Faith
Faith and priesthood are two different things. People can heal by faith without priesthood. Men can do marvelous things through faith in Jesus Christ without being ordained to the priesthood. This is evidenced in scripture by young Melchizedek who “was a man of faith, who wrought righteousness; and when a child he feared God, and stopped the mouths of lions, and quenched the violence of fire.” (JST Gen 14:26) His ordination occurred after he had exhibited great faith.
You Can’t Vote On Priesthood Power
Possession of the higher priesthood power comes only by the will of God, not by the will of man. It is not something we can vote on and confer upon a man. Voting is something the LDS church does when sustaining individuals to offices within the church. You can’t vote higher priesthood power upon a man. He must receive it directly by hearing the voice of God himself. “And it was delivered unto men by the calling of his own voice, according to his own will…” (JST Gen 14:29)
Priesthood Not Lost When Leaving LDS Church
A man does not lose the priesthood when he is no longer a member of the LDS Church. Even the Handbook verifies this on page 122 under Restoration of Blessings. Under the direction of the First Presidency, an Area Seventy usually performs the ordinance of “restoration of blessings.” He does NOT ordain the man to the priesthood again, nor is he required to be endowed again. What does that tell you? A man does NOT lose his priesthood when he resigns from the church.
Authority and Power are Two Different Things
In other words, the LDS Church does not and cannot control priesthood. It is controlled by God. This is contrary to letters sent out by local church leaders stating that priesthood is withdrawn. Sorry. That’s false doctrine. I don’t know how many different ways I can express this to make the point clear. I received the Aaronic priesthood from my father. I still have it, along with a line of authority to prove it. The higher Melchizedek priesthood is only received directly from God.
Priesthood is a Call to Save and Redeem
Priesthood is not a franchise. It is not something that is given in order to control others. In its highest form, Priesthood is an opportunity, afforded you by God, to serve and to bless others. It its highest form, the Priesthood is a call to save and a call to redeem. It is a call to rescue others from destruction. The lesser priesthood is often used to condemn. In fact, when condemnation is placed upon a man in the church, you can be certain it is not performed with higher priesthood.
Priesthood is a Fellowship or Association
The real definition of Priesthood is an association between mankind and those on the other side of the veil. It is a brotherhood, and, potentially, a sisterhood. It is a fellowship, a ministry. It is a connection between the Powers of Heaven and the man or woman. Its purpose is raise up and to bless, never to condemn. In fact, if a fellowship or priesthood is used to condemn it may as well be considered as one of Satan’s priesthoods, because such condemnation does not save souls.
Priesthood is Not to Control or Compel
Priesthood is not a hierarchy, at least not the kind that mortals like to employ in which they love to control and compel others. Priesthood is more like developmental stages on Jacob’s ladder. Each stage of association, fellowship or priesthood is moving toward perfection. To be higher in your perfection is to be near to and therefore more like God. The only tools of the priesthood are persuasion, love, meekness and pure knowledge. It is never used to control or compel others.
Priesthood an Association with Powers of Heaven
Joseph named some of the powers of heaven for us: angels, archangels, principalities, powers, dominions, thrones, cherubim and seraphim. These are all powers of heaven. D&C 121 teaches us how we are to relate to these powers of heaven. If you offer knowledge using persuasion, gentleness and love unfeigned, you are going to find someone who is armed with the power of heaven and who has an association with the powers of heaven as named by Joseph Smith.
Authority is Given to Bring Unto Christ
Priesthood power comes by sharing truth, light and knowledge from a higher source. When one uses priesthood he does not teach the philosophies of men mingled with scripture. He will teach new truth and therefore shed new light on subjects, because such teachers are filled with light and truth themselves. They have authority given them to make men more like God, to lift and to elevate them, to enlighten and strengthen, to encourage and to point the way toward the Savior.
Priesthood Given to Dispense Knowledge
It will be knowledge that exalts you in the afterlife. We progress and grow, line by line, step by step, rung by rung, until we arrive at the station of an exalted and glorified being, dwelling in everlasting burnings. The afterlife does not consist of only a heaven and a hell. The afterlife is not a destination, and is not limited by time. Remember, it will be a great time after we have crossed through the veil before we will have learned all there is to be learned for exaltation.
Two Different Kinds of Fellowships
There are two different fellowships in the priesthood. One is between men or women and the other is between men and God. The fellowship we have on earth between us is different from the fellowship we have with heaven and the powers of heaven. Enoch taught us in Moses 7:27 it is the powers of heaven who bring us up into Zion. Think about that. While we are attempting to prepare for Zion among ourselves, we must also seek to have fellowship with Zion above us.
Seek to Associate with Powers of Heaven
There are many examples of these two fellowships in the scriptures: Enoch, Moses, Abraham, Jacob and others. They were first ordained to the fellowship among their brethren. They then went and obtained their errand from the Lord and established their fellowship with the powers of heaven. We ought never to be content to simply have the association that exists here. We should always seek to know and associate with the powers of heaven as we prepare for Zion to come.
Priesthood is to Enable us to See God
Don’t let anyone deceive you into believing this association is only meant for the afterlife. The purpose of the priesthood is to be able to see the face of God and live. It is to allow the power of Godliness to be manifest unto men, in the flesh. (D&C 84:21, 76:118, 93:1) This power, this priesthood, this fellowship, this association with the powers of heaven was meant to be laid hold upon by mortal men while here in this life. This life is the time to take care of this assignment.
Fellowships Required of Us in This Life
When Joseph said there were different portions or degrees of priesthood he meant the different fellowships and different associations we can have with the powers of heaven that exist on the other side of the veil. We need to cultivate that association in this life. Our growth requires these fellowships or priesthoods in order to obtain the power of Godliness so we can attain to the resurrection of the dead and dwell in everlasting burnings. Thus we can keep our second estate.
All Priesthood is Perishable
Even that priesthood conferred by the voice of God is perishable, if you are unwilling to restrain, and to contain yourself within the bounds the Lord has prescribed. Although Joseph did not, the church lost the higher priesthood, else why would the Lord point out the need to “restore again that which was lost unto you, or which he hath taken away, even the fullness of the priesthood?” (D&C 124:28) While we’re still mortal, it is possible any person can lose the higher priesthood.
Lack of Faith Damns our Progress
I’ve always wondered why angels would choose to be angels as opposed to becoming Gods. It is because they are unwilling to believe they can obtain such a blessing. They limited themselves. It is the same with us. We hedge up our own way to heaven when we fail to develop sufficient faith and confidence necessary to lay hold upon all the blessings offered, because we believe those blessings are reserved for others and not for us. Like the children of Israel, we damn ourselves.
Faith Required to Obtain the Fullness
The Children of Israel would not ascend the mountain. They demanded a prophet to speak to God for them. They would not speak with God themselves. Thus they were cursed by God. Can you imagine how God must feel about those who preach today we are not entitled to receive any kind of revelation beyond what they say we can receive? Yes, there are those among us who say we cannot receive an audience with Christ, because such things are reserved only for prophets.
The Lord Took Away the Higher Priesthood
Joseph could not get the Saints to complete the Nauvoo temple before he was killed. Had they done so, the promised blessing in D&C 124:55 would have been fulfilled. The Lord wanted to restore the fullness of the priesthood – the higher priesthood – to the church. He had placed the church under condemnation in D&C 84:56. In D&C 124:28 the Lord told the Saints He had taken away the higher priesthood. The Temple was required in order to restore what was lost.
The Church was Cursed Instead of Blessed
If there’s one thing I have noticed as a result of being baptized again, it is the way I can now clearly see the meaning of the scriptures. Not only has my desire to study them increased, but the spirit bears witness to me the interpretations the LDS Church has taught for years about some passages, particularly in section 124, are simply wrong. We have lost the plain meaning of what the Lord tried to tell us there, or else we are just too blind to see it or are unwilling to accept it.
Conversing With the Lord Through the Veil
Joseph left us enough of the doctrine in the endowment ceremony, particularly in the method of approaching the Lord at the veil, for individuals to obtain the promised blessings for themselves. In other words, we can converse with the Lord through the veil. We can obtain an audience with the Savior. We can be sealed to the Fathers and eventually, come back into the Father’s presence. This is the promise of the holy priesthood. It can be obtained in this life if we desire and seek it.