Thursday, February 28, 2013

THE MORMON PRIESTHOOD: IS IT THE ONLY VALID PRIESTHOOD GOD RECOGNIZES?

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The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints claims that Joseph Smith received heavenly visitations from John the Baptist, Peter, James and John, resurrected beings, who conferred upon him the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods. Jesus told Joseph Smith that it was because all of Christianity had gone astray and he had to restore his New Testament church, including the priesthood.

By virtue of this supernatural endowment, the LDS Church asserts that it, over all other denominations, is the only true church God recognizes as holding legitimate power and authority to act in His name for the salvation of the human family.  This places it with more validity than the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches which trace their priesthood ordinations back to the Apostle Peter. Thus, ordinances performed in those churches, as well as all Protestant denominations, e.g., baptism, chrismation, are all ineffectual.

Did Jesus really send John the Baptist, Peter, James and John to restore these priesthoods? Could the Mormon Church actually be the only true church?

This article digs into this remarkable claim.


THE MORMON PRIESTHOOD
Is it the only valid priesthood God recognizes? 

 Before we start, the initial question to ask is this:

What is priesthood?
Simply put, it is a group of individuals who function as “authorized servants for God and their church.”

What exactly do they do? In general they: 
  1. Perform the church’s sacred liturgy through which members’ devotion is publicly ceremonialized.
  2. Provide leadership in hierarchical, categorized offices of responsibility that see to the successful functioning of the church as a whole.
  3. May also give spiritual advice.
Is priesthood something new?
Absolutely not. It dates back to ancient times when priests acted as mediatory agents between humans and their culture’s deities, offered sacrifices (animal or human), and performed sacred ritual.

All world religions have had a priesthood at one time or another: 

Sumer (Southern Mesopotamia/modern Iraq) from 4,000 BC
Ancient Egypt
Ancient Rome and throughout Italy
Ancient Greece
Judaism
Hinduism

Zoroastrianism

Taoism

Shintoism

Africa (Yoruba people of western Nigeria)
In more modern times:
The Roman Catholic Church
The Eastern Orthodox Church
The Anglican/Episcopalian Churches
Some Lutheran Churches
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

When Joseph Smith came into the limelight he faced one major challenge that presented a serous threat if his church was going to claim any kind of authority—apostolic succession!

What this article will cover:
  1. The Mormon dilemma over apostolic succession—and the solution.
  2. Joseph Smith’s heavenly visitations restoring ancient priesthoods.
  3. The Mormon priesthood’s unique feature.
    Beliefs
    1. The LDS concept of where priesthood originated.
    2. God can’t function without holding a priesthood.
    3. Why the Mormon Church believes God must necessarily receive his priesthood from a previous God.
    4. God gave his priesthood to Adam and the Old Testament prophets
    5. No one can be saved except through the LDS priesthood
    6. All Christian churches are corrupt and inspired of the devil
    7. No one outside the LDS Church can become Gods and Goddesses.
  4. Joseph Smith’s supernatural accounts of receiving the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods.
  5. What the Bible says about the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods.
  6. The Mormon Church’s blunder: placing the role of High Priests in the wrong priesthood.
  7. Did Jesus intend a priesthood in his New Testament church?
  8. What method does the Mormon Church insist must be used to ordain its priesthood?
  9. Did Jesus ordain his apostles to the Melchizedek priesthood?
  10. What are the offices within the LDS Church’s two priesthoods? 
The Mormon dilemma with apostolic succession
The one snarl the Mormon Church needed to smooth out was the problem of apostolic succession. How could it assert itself to be the only true church and compete against, for example, the Roman Catholic Church that claimed it was the only true church with legitimate authority from God to perform saving ordinances based on having a priesthood received through apostolic successionthat is, an unbroken chain of ordinations dating back to the Apostle Peter?

There were also other churches claiming the same. The Eastern (Greek) Orthodox Church,having once been part of the Catholic Church but later separated in the Great Schism splitof 1054, and some branches of the Lutheran Church. [The Anglican Church claims apostolic succession, but views it not so much as conveyed mechanically through an unbroken chain of ordinations, but expressing a continuous unbroken chain of commitment, beliefs and mission that started with the first apostles.] Protestants presented no problem because they denied apostolic succession. Their authority came from scripture only in the doctrine known as Sola Scriptura.

How could Joseph Smith solve this dilemma? To be authoritative, he had to somehow tie his church in with an apostolic succession traceable back to Christ. But since the LDS Church didn’t start until 1830, he couldn’t very well claim a physical line of successive ordinations handed down from biblical times. He had to come up with some way to achieve this.

The solution? Claim a visitation from heaven!

Joseph Smith’s heavenly visitations
One of Smith’s account, the one made official by the church (there are at least 10 with differing details),(1)  states that God and Jesus Christ appeared to him and appointed him as his prophet to restore the New Testament Church. Interestingly, not even Brigham Young believed this (see endnote 1). Christ then sent the resurrected John the Baptist to lay hands on Smith and Oliver Cowdery and ordained them to the Aaronic priesthood, and also sent Peter, James and John to ordain them to the Melchizedek priesthood. From Smith and Cowdery, this priesthood ordination was mechanically passed down through the LDS church to its members. It was the only way Smith’s church could claim authoritative, apostolic succession that could compete with other priesthood-holding churches.

LDS Apostle James E. Talmage, in Articles of Faith,  describes how the apostolic succession for their male, priesthood-holding members works:

No one may officiate in any ordinance of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints unless he has been ordained to the particular order or office of Priesthood, by those possessing the requisite authority. Thus no man receives the Priesthood except under the hands of one who holds that Priesthood himself; that one must have obtained it from others previously commissioned; and so every bearer of the Priesthood today can trace his authority to the hands of Joseph Smith, the Prophet, who received his ordination under the hands of the apostles Peter, James, and John; and they had been ordained by the Lord Jesus Christ. (Underlining, mine)(2)

Every LDS priesthood holder possesses a genealogical-like chart, called a “Priesthood Line Chart,” that shows his line of ordination to both the Aaronic Priesthood and Melchizedek Priesthood and who ordained him; then, in turn, who ordained that man, going all the way back to Joseph Smith who allegedly received it from either John the Baptist (for the Aaronic priesthood) or Peter, James (for the Melchizedek priesthood), the latter supposedly receiving that priesthood from Christ.

The Mormon priesthood’s unique feature
The LDS Church’s novel and unparalleled feature is that it names its priesthoods—Aaronic and Melchizedek. (Doctrine and Covenants 107:1; hereinafter D&C) Other churches claiming priesthood have not done this. For example, the Roman Catholic Church only refers to its clergy as “the priesthood,” although it has titled offices that function within it, such as cardinals, bishops, priests and deacons, etc.(3) (See endnote for my conversation with a Catholic priest).

The LDS Church has evolved a detailed theology about its priesthood and where it came from.

The LDS concept of where priesthood originated
Mormonism teaches that the God of this world, a resurrected man from a previous world, holds the ultimate level of priesthood, the same as Melchizedek and all the Old Testament prophets did. Although Mormons refer to God’s priesthood as “Melchizedek,” God’s priesthood was not actually called that according to Joseph Smith. The Book of Mormon says it was called “the holy order of God” or “the holy priesthood after the order of the Son of God.”(13) The explanation given for calling it Melchizedek instead of the Book of Mormon names is given in the D&C 107:2-4. It was “to avoid the too frequent repetition” of God’s name.

Joseph Smith also gives the genealogy of God’s priesthood that was allegedly given to Melchizedek and other Old Testament prophets. He says: “It is “the order of Melchizedek, which was after the order of Enoch, which was after the order of the Only Begotten Son” (D&C 76:57). In D&C 84: 6-16, he gives a little more detail, tracing its supposed history from Moses backward through his father-in-law Jethro who ordained him, back to Abraham, Melchizedek, Noah, Enoch, Abel, and finally Adam. (See excellent article at http://bib.irr.org/jesus-melchizedek-and-priesthood)

Mormonism teaches that without the priesthood, God would have no power to function, let alone create a universe.

Apostle Bruce R. McConkie (hereinafter, McConkie) reiterates Joseph Smith’s teachings on the subject:

The priesthood is an everlasting principle, and existed with God from eternity, and will to eternity, without beginning of days or end of years.”(4)

As pertaining to eternity, priesthood is the eternal power and authority of Deity by which all things exist; by which they are created, governed, and controlled; by which the universe and worlds without number have come rolling into existence; by which the great plan of creation, redemption, and exaltation operates throughout immensity. It is the power of God. (Italics and underlining, mine) (Journal of Discourses)(5)

Here is what is illogical with the above belief: 
  1. If we were to agree that priesthood is the “power of God” by which he creates, governs and controls the universe, we would also have to believe that any mortal on earth who holds the priesthood is also able to create, govern and control the universe. We find no account in the Old or New Testament of any priest exhibiting this kind of power.
  2. Priesthood is usually something that is conferred upon someone. Regarding the etymology of priesthood, “hood” is a condition a person enters into not previously held (e.g. motherhood, widowhood, etc.) It also includes a new office “placed” upon a person. If the Mormon God, one of many, needed to hold priesthood to be powerful and create, it would suggest that someone else would have had to endow him with that power. This places Him subject to a higher God who gave it to him. Then that higher God, in turn, must necessarily have received it from a prior God, and on and on ad infinitum. 
All this is false doctrine according to the Bible. If one believes God’s word in the Bible, wherein He unequivocally states that there are no other Gods before or after him and that He is the only One, then He would not be required to have a priesthood power conferred upon him by another God because He is already a power unto Himself. (Isa. 43:11, 44:8, 45:5-6, 21)

Why the Mormon Church believes God must necessarily receive priesthood from a previous God.
The reason for this priesthood genealogy of the Gods is because the LDS Church believes in a plurality of Gods. Each God at one time was a mortal man subject to a previous God. When he advanced and became a God himself, he had to acquire his Godly powers from someone. That “someone” would either mean (1) a mortal priesthood holder in the world he previously lived in, (2) from the heavenly God he was subject to in that world, or (3) after qualifying to be a God, ordained by the “Jesus Christ” of that world (the eldest son of every God becomes a Jesus Christ).

Since mortal Mormon men eventually become Gods, a God’s priesthood power is necessarily transmissible from God to God. Of course, the New Testament states that the Melchizedek priesthood is not transmissible (See Hebrew 7:23-24; discussed later) See also my article, “God and the Trinity, Part 3” that discusses Mormon beliefs about Godhttp://tinyurl.com/b5wzkx5.

What does transmissible mean? It means it could not be passed from one to another. (Heb. 7:24). The only reason the Aaronic office of High Priest in the Old Testament was passed down was because the high priest, being a mortal, died and someone had to take his place. Jesus, however, is not subject to death, therefore there is no need to pass his priesthood on to someone else because he lives forever. 

God gave his priesthood to Adam and the Old Testament prophets
Mormonism also teaches that in mortality God’s priesthood was transferred and endowed upon all the Old Testament prophets. The following are quotes from LDS leaders that confirm this belief of transference on such individuals as Michael, Adam, Noah, Abraham—not only in mortality but also in the premortal world.

(Adam) Adam and others obtained the priesthood “in the creation, before the world was formed.” (Italics mine) (McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed., p 477)

As pertaining to mortality, the priesthood was first given to Adam (Moses 6:67-68). He stands at the head as the presiding high priest (under Christ) over all the earth for all ages. (McConkie, op. cit., p. 477, citing Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 157-158, 323; D&C 84:17; Inspired Version of the Bible, Heb. 7:1-3)

(Abraham) Thus Abraham sought for the blessings of the fathers,” and by righteousness “became a rightful heir, a High Priest, holding the right belonging to the fathers.” The priesthood, he [Abraham] says, “was conferred upon me from the fathers; it came down from the fathers, from the beginning of time, yea, even from the beginning, or before the foundations of the earth to the present time, even the right of the firstborn, on the first man, who is Adam, our first father, through the fathers, unto me. I sought for mine appointment unto the Priesthood according to the appointment of God unto the fathers concerning the seed.

Thereafter Abraham received the promise that his seed after him would be entitled, as of right, to the same priesthood inheritance that he had won.(Italics are McConkie’s) (Abraham 1:1-4 and 2:11 cited in McConkie, op. cit., p. 479)

(Noah) The Priesthood was first given to Adam; he obtained the First Presidency, and held the keys of it from generation to generation. He obtained it in the creation before the world was formed ... He is Michael, the archangel, spoken of in the scripture. Then to Noah, who is Gabriel; He stands next in authority to Adam in the priesthood. (The Gospel Through the Ages by Milton R. Hunter, p. 61)

(all the prophets) All the prophets had the Melchizedek Priesthood and were ordained by God himself… (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 181; Doctrines of Salvation, Vol. 3, pp 80-102)

However, despite the above statements, there are no biblical accounts of the Old Testament prophets ever being ordained to any Melchizedek priesthood, or a “Priesthood after the order of the Son of God.”

Joseph Smith claims that this same Melchizedek priesthood was restored in 1829. The church defines it as the “authority to act in the name of God.” Therefore, this makes the LDS Church, in its own eyes, very exclusive when it comes to performing ordinances of salvation. That means, no other church’s baptisms, chrismation, ordination of priests, etc., can be valid. This exclusive salvation is stated in no uncertain terms as follows:

There is no salvation for anyone except through the LDS priesthood
Milton R. Hunter, in The Gospel Through the Ages,  stated that the church’s priesthood is the most significant element of their religion:

Priesthood is probably the most important single item in the Gospel.(Italics, Hunter’s)(6)

However, if priesthood is supposed to be that important, then Jesus would certainly have mentioned it during his earthly ministry—yet he never mentioned it once. Nor is there a single verse in the Bible that declares that Jesus ordained the twelve apostles to any Priesthood via laying on of hands. (The LDS mode, discussed later)

According to the LDS perspective, it is only its priesthood that can perform and legitimize ordinances that constitute salvation. That means that if you are baptized in a Bible believing Protestant church, it doesn’t count. Nor does it, if performed by a Catholic or Orthodox priest.

But here’s an important fact: When Jesus gave the Holy Spirit and the power to bind and loose to his apostles prior to Pentecost, he simply “breathed” upon them (John 20:22-23). No ordaining or laying on of hands for this. At Pentecost, the apostles and others received more power and gifts of the Holy Spirit to witness. Again, no laying on of hands. 

Nevertheless, the church is emphatic that all salvific ordinances, including receipt of the Holy Spirit, can only be achieved through the LDS Church’s priesthood:

Pres. Joseph Fielding Smith : [There is] "no salvation without accepting Joseph Smith. If Joseph Smith was verily a prophet, and if he told the truth ... no man can reject that testimony without incurring the most dreadful consequences, for he cannot enter the kingdom of God." (underlining, mine) (Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 1, p.190).

President Joseph F. Smith: Priesthood is the power and authority of God delegated to man on earth to act in all things for the salvation of men. It is the power by which the gospel is preached; by which the ordinances of salvation are performed so that they will be binding on earth and in heaven. (Gospel Doctrine, Pres. Joseph F. Smith, 5th ed., pp. 136-200; see also McConkie, op. cit., p. 594).

Brigham Young: "No man or woman in this dispensation will ever enter into the celestial kingdom of God without the consent of Joseph Smith ... every man and woman must have the certificate of Joseph Smith, junior, as a passport to their entrance into the mansion where God and Christ are" (underlining, mine) (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 7, p.289).

Apostle Bruce McConkie: "If it had not been for Joseph Smith and the restoration, there would be no salvation. There is no salvation outside The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." (underlining, mine) (McConkie, op. cit., p.670).

Because of these assertions, the LDS church views Christian churches in a negative manner, going as far as to call them “corrupt,” and "of the devil":

All Christian churches are corrupt and inspired of the devil
Why this assessment? Because Joseph Smith said that Jesus told him that:

"… they [other churches] were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt." (underlining, mine) (See Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith-History, 1:19)

But Joseph Smith taught that Christian churches are more than just an abomination . . . they are inspired of the devil. He stated:

What is it that inspires professors of Christianity generally with a hope of salvation? It is that smooth, sophisticated influence of the devil, by which he deceives the whole world. (underlining, mine) (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p.270).

Apostle McConkie, in Mormon Doctrine,  stated the same thing, calling today’s Christianity apostate, abased and perverted:

Apostasy was universal...And this darkness still prevails [among Christian churches] except among those who have come to a knowledge of the restored [Mormon] gospel. … “the prevailing apostate darkness in the sects of Christendom and in the religious world in general.(7) [parenthetical clarifications, mine] (McConkie, op cit.) For details on the Great Apostasy, see my article, “Mormonism and the Great Apostasy” at http://tinyurl.com/beulc2y)

A perverted Christianity holds sway among the so-called Christians of apostate Christendom. . . Virtually all the millions of apostate Christendom have abased themselves before the mythical throne of a mythical Christ whom they vainly suppose to be a spirit essence who is incorporeal uncreated, immaterial and three-in-one with the Father and Holy Spirit"(8) (underlining, mine)

McConkie goes further and adds that all of Christianity’s churches are false because they don’t have the Melchizedek priesthood:

Without the Melchizedek Priesthood[,] salvation in the kingdom of God would not be available for men on earth, for the ordinances of salvation—the laying on or hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, for instance—could not be authoritatively performed.(9) (underlining, mine)

Thus, as far as all religious organizations now existing are concerned, the presence or the absence of this priesthood establishes the divinity or falsity of a professing church. . . . If there is no Melchizedek Priesthood on earth, the true Church is not here and the gospel of Christ is not available to men. But where the Melchizedek Priesthood is, there is the kingdom, the Church, and the fullness of the gospel.(10) (italics, McConkie’s; underlining, mine)

Therefore, believing the Great Apostasy produced corrupt Christian churches that lacked priesthood to perform valid ordinances, no salvation is possible in those churches—the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only true church upon the face of the earth. This is based on Jesus allegedly stating to Joseph Smith:

“[The church is] the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, with which I, the Lord, am well pleased." (D&C 1:30).

But, LDS salvation and its corresponding ordinances entail much more than just baptism, reception of the Holy Ghost and ordination to the priesthood. There is a higher level, referred to as a “fullness” of salvation, which is exaltation. This is the level of temple ordinances that prepares priesthood-endowed individuals to become Gods and Goddesses. This is exclusive to the LD Church

No one outside the LDS Church can become Gods and Goddesses
In the quotes below, whenever the term “fullness” is used, it is referring to the preparatory exaltation temple ordinances performed by the Melchizedek priesthood that prepare one for Godhood, reserved only for worthy Mormons. 

The greatest blessings are reserved for those who obtain the fullness of the priesthood. (underlining mine) (McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 482)
Celestial marriage itself is an “order of the priesthood” without which no one can gain the fullness of glory in the eternal worlds.(underlining, mine)
 (Cited in McConkie, op. cit., p. 482, with references to D&C 131:1-4; 132)

The greatest blessings are reserved for those who obtain “the fullness of the priesthood,” meaning the fullness of the blessings of the priesthood. These blessings are found only in the temples of God.
(Italics by McConkie; underlining, mine) (Cited in McConkie, op. cit., p. 482, with references to D&C 124:28, 34, 42; 127:8.)

All men who become heirs of God and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ will have to receive the fullness of the ordinances of his kingdom; and those who will not receive all the ordinances will come short of the fullness of that glory, if they do not lose the whole. (underlining, mine)
(Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 308-309; cited in McConkie, op. cit., p. 482)

Through this priesthood [Melchizedek] men become joint-heirs with Christ, receiving and possessing the fullness of the Father’s kingdom. (Italics and parenthetical comment, mine)(McConkie, op. cit., p. 480)

But where the Melchizedek Priesthood is, there is the kingdom, the Church, and the fullness of the gospel. (Italics, the author’s; underlining, mine) (McConkie, op. cit., p. 479-480.)

How did the priesthood come into the church? Here are the accounts:

Joseph Smith's Supernatural Accounts of Receiving the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods

Joseph Smith receives the Aaronic Priesthood
As you read the following accounts, you will see, as with any story that is handed down over time, embellishments and improvements are made to make each rendition sound more impressive, e.g., Smith’s account advanced from hearing God speak to him through the Urim and Thummin telling him simply to be baptized, then receiving the Aaronic priesthood via angels; then to receiving it from John the Baptist:

Joseph Smith’s first account - May 15, 1829 (no John the Baptist or angels yet).
Joseph Smith says that God commanded him and Oliver Cowdery through the Urim and Thummin to go to the river and be baptized. They did, and baptized each other.
(This date is the one the church has officially set for the restoration of the Aaronic priesthood through John the Baptist, even though the Baptist hadn’t been incorporated into the story yet.)

Next account (expands to angels) 1833-1834.
Joseph Smith claims he and Oliver Cowdery received the Aaronic priesthood through the ministering of angels. (No John the Baptist yet.)

Next account (John the Baptist is officially established by the church)
The church identifies the angel previously mentioned in the 1833-34 account as John the Baptist, and places it into D&C 13, retro dating it to May 15, 1829. The following are the words attributed to John the Baptist:

Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah, I confer the Priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel or repentance and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; and this shall never be taken again from the earth until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness.

But here is the illogical part. According to the church’s official rendition, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, after being ordained to the Aaronic priesthood by John the Baptist and after baptizing each other, they then turn around and ordain each other to the Aaronic priesthood.  ‘What?’ you are probably asking. “Do you mean they lost their priesthood within the few minutes John the Baptist gave it to them?” Go figure.  

Of great interest is an 1885 statement by David Whitmer, one of the Book of Mormon witnesses. He said that after conversing with Joseph and Oliver Cowdery: “I do not believe that John the Baptist ever ordained Joseph and Oliver as stated and believed by some.”(11)

Whitmer’s statement makes sense when one looks at how the accounts evolved. Grant H. Palmer, in An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins,  describes how the church made its official version work:

There is also no mention in the 1833 Book of Commandments (predecessor of the Doctrine and Covenants) of the appearance of John the Baptist ordaining Joseph Smith to the Aaronic priesthood, nor was the Aaronic Priesthood even a part of the church in the beginning. It was at the later promptings of Sidney Rigdon that they decided to incorporate it into the church and the John-the-Baptist-account was retrofitted into the first edition of the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants. Also, “accounts of angelic ordinations from John the Baptist are in none of the journals, diaries, letters, or printed matter until the mid-1830s.” (underlining, mine)(12)

What does the Bible say about the Aaronic Priesthood?
In ancient Israel, the Aaronic priesthood was reserved only for the literal descendants of Aaron, Moses’ brother. In view of this lineage mandate, one can see the serious error in the LDS Church’s Aaronic priesthood. Its leaders admit that the majority of members who hold that priesthood are from the tribe of Ephraim or Manasseh (supernaturally revealed through their Patriarchal Blessings). This should disqualify them from holding the Aaronic Priesthood.

How does the church reconcile this? The church states that until someone steps forth with a legitimate claim to being a descendant of Aaron, male members, regardless of lineage, can officiate as substitutes.

God would never have allowed that in the Old Testament:

(1)   God was very strict about who could hold the Aaronic priesthood. Only descendants of Aaron—absolutely no substitutes.

(2)   Even Christ couldn’t hold it because he was of the tribe of Judah (Hebrews 7:14). This has Mormon men making themselves more privileged than Christ.

(3)   LDS Aaronic priests do not perform the same Old Testament duties, that of offering animal sacrifices. (Mention is made of this solely because the church claims it has the genuine, original Aaronic priesthood.) But even if Mormon Aaronic holders performed sacrifices, they would be of no efficacy because the Levitical and Aaronic priesthood was done away with at the death of Christ and was no longer needed. Why? Because the Aaronic priesthood’s animal sacrifices were for the repetitive cleansing of sin. They pointed to Jesus who was to become the final sacrificial Lamb. Therefore, when Jesus offered himself as the once for all sacrifice on the cross for sin, the Aaronic priesthood with its animal sacrifices was no longer necessary. (Hebrews 7:24; but see whole book of HebrewsNote: The Mormon Church anticipates the reinstitution of animal sacrifice because Joseph Smith taught this. See Teaching of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 172.


       (Don't miss the interesting 15 minute video at the end of this article by a former LDS Missionary who had his eyes opened to the truth when he read the book of Hebrews and found out the temple and priesthood were no longer required.)

Strangely, the LDS Church has done a switcheroo with the Aaronic office of the high priest.

The Mormon Church places the role of its High Priests in the Melchizedek priesthood instead of the Aaronic. The high priests in the Old Testament held the Aaronic priesthood the same as the ordinary priests, except that they were higher in hierarchal position and responsibility. It is here that the LDS Church makes its blunder: 
  • The Mormon Church has its high priests functioning in the Melchizedek priesthood, not the Aaronic. Why? Probably because after Jesus was resurrected and became a high priest after the order of Melchizedek, they wanted to copy the highest priesthood they could. This means the LDS Church places its high priests on a par with Christ.
  • The LDS Church has many high priests, whereas in Old Testament days there could be only one high priest on earth at a time. Once each year His role was to go into the "Holiest of all" to offer animal blood sacrifices for himself and for the people (Ex. 30:10; Heb. 9:7, 19-22). Jesus's sacrifice for sin ended that. This is also why we find no record of High Priests in the New Testament church.

One might ask, "Why didn't God make Jesus a High Priest in the Aaronic instead of the Melchizedek priesthood? The reason is because Jesus did not descend from Aaron and could only become a priest in an order that did not require him to descend from that lineage. Under Torah law he could not become a priest of any sort because he was not a “Hebrew kohen” (a priest in the line of Aaron). Neither was Melchizedek a Hebrew kohen. (Actually, the scriptures don’t even say that Melchizedek was a “High Priest,” only that he was King of Salem and simply “a priest of the Most High.” (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kohen)

We do not find that those holding positions of apostles, bishops and deacons in the New Testament church held an Aaronic or Melchizedek Priesthood. Therefore, the LDS claim to their high priests holding the Melchizedek priesthood conflicts with the Bible.

Joseph Smith receives the Melchizedek priesthood

June 1829. Joseph Smith receives the “word of the Lord” that he should ordain Oliver Cowdery to be an Elder in the church and that Oliver should ordain him in return. This was postponed until more of the brethren could be assembled together, which took place in April 1830. (No angelic appearances, or Peter James and John yet, and in the 1833 Book of Commandments (predecessor to D&C), there is still no mention of a priesthood restoration or Peter James and John.)

September 1830.  In the Doctrine and Covenants, Joseph makes a vague reference to angels, Peter, James and John; however, states that he and Oliver Cowdery were only ordained “apostles” and “special witnesses” of Christ, but no mention is made of priesthood. (D&C 27:12-13; 128:20) 

So, where do Peter, James and John and the Melchizedek priesthood come into the picture, and why? Church leaders realized they needed an ordinance in the church for members to receive the Holy Ghost, but in reading the Bible discovered that John the Baptist said he wasn’t able to confer the baptism of the Holy Ghost (Matthew 3:11). So, LDS leaders had to incorporate an additional priesthood. The only priesthood left with a name was Melchizedek, which was indeed presumptuous on their part since Christ only held that. 
Similar to Joseph’s Aaronic priesthood account, there was an evolution in the accounts of receiving the Melchizedek priesthood through Peter, James and John:

(1) Joseph receives the word of the Lord that he should ordain Oliver Cowdery to be an Elder in the church and that Oliver should ordain him in return. This was postponed until more of the brethren could be assembled together. The ordination ook place April 1830. (No claim of angelic appearances, Peter James and John, or priesthood mentioned yet.)

(2) 1833: Book of Commandments (predecessor to the D&C). Still no mention of Priesthood restoration or Peter James and John.

(3) Sept. 1833: Vague reference in the D&C that mentions angels, Peter, James and John, and John the Baptist, with the appointment of Smith and Cowdery as “apostles” and “special witnesses.” (D&C 27:12-13; 128:20) 

(4) Later: The church established the official date for Peter, James and John ordaining Smith and Cowdery to the Melchizedek priesthood, retro dating the account back to June 1829 and putting it into the first edition of the 1835 D&C to validate it and give the impression it had come as a revelation at an earlier date (this was not uncommon).

No early narrative exists, not even in the 1830 or 1833 Book of Commandments, that states that Peter James and John ordained Joseph Smith to the Melchizedek priesthood, and the details of the conflicting accounts are too voluminous to recite here. See endnote.(14)

Biblically, none of Jesus’ apostles or believers were ever ordained to the Melchizedek priesthood, and definitely not the high priests in the Old Testament.

Did Jesus want a priesthood in his New Testament church?
He wanted all believers to become a "Kingdom of priests,” in the body of Christ, but a priesthood that was neither Aaronic or Melchizedek. It would be a "holy and royal" priesthood that believers obtained after accepting Christ and receiving the Holy Spirit. (I Peter 2:5 and 9; Rev. 1:6). They would be functioning under the sovereignty of Christ and his priesthood, High Priest and King of kings, acting as authorized servants for Him and the church.

Christ did not intend his church to be an exact formal organization that is exclusive, although there is nothing wrong with a community of Christian believers gathering together to worship in church buildings as we do today. But the Bible makes very clear what the word “church” means. It is translated from ekklesia, the Greek word kaleo (to call), with the prefix ek, meaning “out.” Thus, the word means "the called out ones." The body of the church consists of all baptized believers, which automatically makes them a member of the body of Christ:

For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. (1 Cor. l2:l3)

But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. For the body is not one member, but many. (I Cor. 12:13-14)

Are we sure a “priesthood of all believers” is what God wanted?
Yes. God’s original plan was that the whole nation of Israel become priests. When God first spoke to Moses on Mt. Sinai, he made this clear:

Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine. And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel. (Exod. 19:5; italics mine)

Israel’s rebellious spirit negated that plan, so faithful individuals of the lineage of Aaron were chosen and made priests in the place of the children of Israel and offered animal sacrifices for their sins. God’s original plan eventually came to fruition with Christ.

Later, Moses said in reminiscence of the original plan:

But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the LORD’s people were prophets, that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!” (Num. 11:29)

What are the duties of this “royal” priesthood?
Believers were, and are today, to daily offer their own bodies as living sacrifices to God in service, rather than sacrificing animals. (Romans 12:1). They are not to offer sacrifices for others’ sins like Old Testament priests did, but are endowed with the Holy Spirit so they can serve others, witness and even intercede for others in prayer so they would turn to the one High Priest Jesus, who can assure them of cleansing through His sacrifice on the cross. As royal priests of Christ and his church, believers have equal potential to minister for God as did priests in the Old Testament.

Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. … 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 marvelous light. ((I Pet. 2:5, 9)

Through John the Revelator, God spoke to the redeemed in all the churches:

Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. (Rev. 1:6)

And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof; for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and hast made us unto our God kings and priests; and we shall reign on the earth. (Rev. 5:9-10)

There is no more need to access God through an earthly priest who enters God’s presence in the Holy of Holies as mediator (see Book of Hebrews). Through Jesus Christ individuals can “come boldly into the throne of grace” (Heb. 4:16)

While Old Testament Priests functioned as mediators, Christ is now the only Mediator (Priest) between men and God (I Tim. 2:5; Heb. 7:24-25; John 14:6). The Aaronic priesthood actually ended at Christ's crucifixion when "the veil of the temple was rent in twain from top to bottom" (Matt. 27:50-51). That veil was 60 feet high and separated the "Holiest of all" from the "sanctuary" (Heb. 9:2-3). By tearing that veil, God symbolically declared that Christ's death gave believers direct access to God. They "enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus - through the veil, that is to say, His flesh" (Heb. 10:19-20). But, some of the priests patched the heavy temple curtain and went on offering sacrifices until 70 AD when the Roman army destroyed both the temple and the city of Jerusalem. They did not know that those sacrifices were only figures (symbols) of Christ's offering of Himself (Heb. 9:1-10:21). (Mormon Claims Answered, Marvin J. Cowan, Ch. 6. http://tinyurl.com/amx83sk.

What method does the Mormon Church use to confer/ordain its priesthood?
The LDS church believes that it must be done by the “laying on of hands.”

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. (5th Article of Faith by Joseph Smith)

LDS leaders claim that Aaron, in Ex. 28:1, received the priesthood from Moses and was ordained via laying on of hands; therefore, anyone who receives the LDS priesthood must receive it in like manner. Leaders also quote Heb. 5:4: “No man taketh this honor unto himself but he that is called of God as was Aaron,”because they believe hands were laid upon Aaron for him to receive his appointment.

But whoa . . .

Neither Ex. 28:1 or Heb. 5:4 say anything about ordaining by laying on of hands when a man was called to the priesthood. Heb. 5:4 says only that he be “called of God."

Marvin J. Cowan explains in his book, Mormon Claims Answered:

Neither Aaron nor anyone else was ever ordained to the Aaronic priest's office in the Old Testament. The only "priests" who were ordained in the Old Testament were idolatrous priests (II Kings 23:5; II Chron. 11:15)! Aaron [instead] was "anointed" [with oil] (Ex. 40:13), but so was the tabernacle and everything in it (Ex. 40:9-15). Therefore, this "anointing" was not the "laying on of hands" to give the priesthood, unless the tabernacle and everything in it were also ordained to the priesthood! A good concordance will show that many other things in the Old Testament were "ordained," but the priests who served God were not! (underlining, mine) Cowan’s Chapter 6 can be read for free at http://tinyurl.com/amx83sk.

The word “ordained” used in the Bible cannot be defined as Laying on of Hands. For example, in the Old Testament God said he would “ordain a people” (I Ch. 17:9). The Hebrew word is appoint. We also find in Isa 26:12: “Lord, thou wilt ordain peace for us.” This certainly does not mean that “peace” is going to receive the priesthood by the laying on of hands. It means “establish.”

Did Jesus ordain his apostles to the Melchizedek priesthood?
The New Testament teaches that Jesus:

(1)   was the only one who held the priesthood after the order of Melchizedek (the King of Salem/Jerusalem in the Old Testament to whom Abraham offered tithes).

(2)   None of Jesus’ apostles or believers held it, not even the high priests in the Old and New Testament for they could only hold the Aaronic priesthood.

(3)   Nor does Jesus mention it anywhere in any of the four gospels.

These three facts destroy the Mormon claim to the Melchizedek priesthood.

The LDS Church, to reinforce the necessity of ordaining by the Laying on of Hands to confer priesthood,
quotes part of John 15:16, where Jesus said to his disciples, "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you and ordained you." They insist that this is Jesus conferring priesthood on his apostles by laying on his hands. But, as can be seen below in the full quote, it’s simply to bring forth “fruit,” and the word “ordained” means to “appoint,” conveying a far different meaning than laying on hands to confer a priesthood. 

Here is the full quote from the KJV and the Amplified version . You will see that the Amplified, which includes the Greek meaning, puts in the correct translation for “ordained:”

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. (KJV)

You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you – I have appointed you, I have planted you – that you might go and bear fruit and keep on bearing; that your fruit may be lasting (that it may remain, abide); so that whatever you ask the Father in My name [as presenting all that I AM] He may give it to you. (Ampl)

Another example is Titus 1:5, when the order is given to go and ordain elders in ever city. Once again the Greek word means, “designate or appoint.” Also, the “ordaining” of bishops translates to “select or appoint,” as well as the ordaining of New Testament bishops. There’s never any mention of laying on of hands for priesthood—let alone conferring the high priest office of the Melchizedek priesthood that was reserved only for Christ. (How could a mortal man hold Christ’s priesthood, since he will eventually die, and the scriptures say that it isn’t transmissible?)

If the church would read its own literature, it would see that “ordain” means “appoint.” The D&C 89:14 says, "all grain is ordained for the use of man and of beast." Ordained? Marvin J. Cowan asks in his book: “Did someone lay hands on the grain and give it the Priesthood?(15)  Further, the same section of the D&C states that herbs and flesh of beasts and fowls are "ordained” for the use of man." Certainly, herbs, beasts and fowls do not hold the priesthood. Ordaining by the laying on of hands is a man-made ritual. Certainly, when performed it is impressive, but it is not mandated by God. 

What are the offices within the LDS Church's two priesthoods?
Any church claiming a priesthood usually has offices within that priesthood to help in the running of the church. The LDS Church is no different. Both its priesthoods, Aaronic and Melchizedek contain offices with job descriptions:

Aaronic priesthood offices.
These are usually held by young boys before they age and advance to the Melchizedek priesthood, although an adult male convert may also be ordained to this priesthood. The duties of each are not listed but can be easily found on the internet; however, for excellent charts on the LDS priesthood, see http://tinyurl.com/bawmehh.

Deacon: age 12
Teacher: age 14
Priest: age 16 (With this office, one can baptize.) But Jesus never taught that a
believer had to hold the Aaronic priesthood before they could baptize others.
            
 Melchizedek priesthood offices (adult males): 

               Apostle
Seventy 
Patriarch/evangelist
               High Priest (Ward bishops are High Priests)
Elder

McConkie clarifies that there is no progression in the Melchizedek offices:

There is no advancement from one Melchizedek office to another. If he is ordained a Seventy, he holds that office until his death. Also, offices within this priesthood do not endow one with more priesthood than another. Every elder holds as much priesthood as an apostle or as the President of the Church, though these latter officers hold greater administrative assignments in the Kingdom. (McConkie, op. cit.,.596)

SUMMARY
The following offers a brief summary about the Mormon priesthood, showing how it contradicts the Bible:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:  
  • Claims a false apostolic succession through heavenly supernatural visitations from the resurrected John the Baptist, Peter, James and John. The varied accounts conflict with each other and are seriously flawed.
  • God, one of many, requires priesthood conferred upon Him in order to have power; otherwise he would be impotent. God states in the Bible that he is the one and only Almighty God, therefore is a power unto himself. He is not dependent on someone else for His power.
  • Jesus told Joseph Smith that the LDS Church is the only true church on the face of the earth. The Bible states that the church is the body of Christ, rather than being a formal organization, and consists of all ”called out” believers.
  • Salvation is not available in Christian churches because they do not have the Melchizedek priesthood to administer saving ordinances. Christ established the priesthood of all believers, which is neither Aaronic or Melchizedek; and all baptized Christians have equal potential to minister for God.
  • Adam and the Old Testament prophets were ordained to the Melchizedek priesthood. No scriptures validate this.
  • Reinstitution of the Aaronic priesthood. God ended that priesthood since it only served to point to Christ. This shows how little the LDS Church understands what the purpose of the Aaronic priesthood was, nor Jesus’ death on the cross.
  • Church male members hold the Melchizedek priesthood. This priesthood was reserved only for Jesus.
  • Non-Mormons will never qualify to become Gods and Goddesses. The Bible does not teach that mortals will ever achieve this.
  • LDS male members, even though not of Aaron’s lineage, can hold the Aaronic priesthood as substitutes. God was strict about this—not even Jesus could hold it.
  • The priesthood of the LDS high priest is Melchizedek, not Aaronic. High priests never held the Melchizedek priesthood—only the Aaronic.
  • There can be many males ordained as high priests. In the Old Testament there could only be one at a time. The New Testament church had none because Jesus became the Christians’ only high priest.
  • Male members must be ordained by the laying on of hands to receive the Melchizedek priesthood. Jesus’ apostles were never, in that manner, ordained to that priesthood, nor were elders, bishops or deacons. “Ordained” means “appointed.”
  • The Melchizedek priesthood is transmissible in the church and must be passed on from male to male. The scriptures state that it is an untransmissible priesthood, and that Jesus is the only one who holds it.
  • Both Melchizedek and Aaronic priesthoods are reserved for males and legitimate their church. New Testament believers never held either priesthood. Biblically all Christians, regardless of race or gender, hold a “royal priesthood” that is neither Aaronic or Melchizedek, exercising it under the jurisdiction of the sovereignty of Christ, and have equal potential to minister for God. This was God’s original, long-range intention (Exod. 19:5).
  • Laying on of hands is required to be ordained into both priesthoods. Jesus never laid hands on his apostles or disciples to confer either the Aaronic or Melchizedek priesthood.
When comparing Mormon beliefs with what the Bible says, the LDS Church has absolutely no biblical grounds for their special authoritative claims, supernatural reception of apostolic succession, or being the only true church upon the face of the earth.

Note: By the way, if you’re wondering how Joseph Smith saw the apparitions of God, Jesus, John the Baptist, Peter, James and John, along with also seeing Moses, Elias, Elijah, Moroni and the angels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, see my article on Smith’s practice of “Second Sight” in my article, “The 1886 Resurrected Appearance of Joseph Smith and Jesus Christ, Validating Polygamy.” Scroll down to the subheading: “Joseph Smith’s involvement in magic, the occult, the faculty of Second Sight, and how supernatural appearances occurred.http://tinyurl.com/byfmsqk.

Also, check out this 15 min. video of a former LDS missionary whose eyes were opened when he read the book of Hebrews and learned that the temple and priesthood were no longer necessary. Go to: http://tinyurl.com/b82zsv5

Until next time,
Janis
(endnotes are below)


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ENDNOTES:
1.  Three of the more popular accounts are as follows: 
1832 account/JS’s own handwriting            Jesus only
1835-36 JS’s diary                                           Angels only (This is the version that Brigham Young professed)*
1838 account                                                    God the Father & Jesus (the Church chose this one)
 *Brigham Young did not believe that God and Jesus came to Joseph Smith. He said, “The Lord did not come . . . but He did send His angel to this same obscure person, Joseph Smith . . . and informed him that he should not join any of the religious sects of the day . . .” (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 2, p. 171To see other accounts of Smith’s first vision, go to http://tinyurl.com/cbjp39c.
2.  James E. Talmage, Articles of Faith, p. 189.
3.  I telephoned a local parish and spoke with a priest. I asked him if his church had a specific name for their priesthood. He said no, that it was simply referred to as “the priesthood.” I explained the Mormon claim of males being literally ordained to the “Melchizedek” priesthood and asked if priests in their churches considered themselves holding that priesthood. Again, he said no. But he made the comment that he thought all their priests functioned under Christ’s Melchizedek priesthood. Also, they are not ordained by the laying on of hands, like Mormons do. After our brief conversation, I gathered that the Catholic concept of serving “under” Christ’s priesthood might be similar to the Protestant’s “priesthood of all believers” in that they function under Christ’s priesthood. However, the main difference would be that in the Catholic Church only the priests can function as priests, not the general body of believers. And, of course, the Catholic Church believes it is the only true church to hold legitimate priesthood. To read the actual ordination ceremony of ordaining a Catholic priest, go to http://tinyurl.com/69rkscq.
4.  Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 157-158, 323; D&C 84:17; Inspired Version of the Bible, Heb. 7:1-3; cited in Mormon Doctrine, 2d Ed, by McConkie, p. 477)
5.  Journal of Discourses, new. ed., p. 130; Gospel Kingdom, p. 129; cited in Mormon Doctrine by McConkie, 2nd Ed., p. 594.
6.  Milton R. Hunter, The Gospel Through the Ages, p. 61.
7.  Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 44, 2nd ed. He also references Doctrines of Salvation, vol 3, p.265 and The Millennial Messiah, p.403.
8.  McConkie, op. cit., p. 132, 269.
9.  McConkie, op. cit., p. 479.
10.  McConkie, op. cit., 479-480.
11.  David Whitmer, interview by Zenas H. Gurley, Jr., an apostle in the RLDS church, 14 Jan. 1885, typescript, LDS archives. See Edward Stevenson Journal, 9 Feb. 1886, cited in Joseph Grant Stevenson, Stevenson Family History (Provo, UT: by the Author, 1955), 1:177-78. Cited in Palmer, op. cit., p. 224, fn 17.
12.  Grant H. Palmer, An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins (Signature Books, SLC, 2002), 223-224 fn 16, citing LaMar Petersen’s Problems in Mormon Text (self-published, Salt Lake City, 1957), 8.
13.  See Alma 13:2, 6-7, 9,18; 4:20; 13:14-19; also D&C 107:2-4.
14.  See D. Michael Quinn’s Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power, 1994, pp 9, 12, 15-16, 35-40. See also Jerald and Sandra Tanner, Mormonism: Shadow or Reality? 179ff. Also http://tinyurl.com/amx83sk; and http://tinyurl.com/ckq7jlz; and http://tinyurl.com/bswqz44.
15. 
Marvin J. Cowan, Mormon Claims Answered, rev. ed. 1989, 78-79.
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1 comment:

  1. EEE-gad! The line of priesthood succession sounds an awful lot like Amway...just saying.

    ReplyDelete

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