Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints talk a lot about the Priesthood. The Priesthood is the power and authority of God. Earth was created through priesthood power. The miracles Christ performed were through the priesthood.
In both ancient and modern times, God has allowed some of us mortals to hold and exercise a teeny tiny bit of that priesthood power and authority. In ancient times it was the Levites who held what was called the Levitical Priesthood, also known as the Aaronic Priesthood, named after Moses’ brother, Aaron. The bible talks about ordination to the Aaronic priesthood in Exodus:
And thou [Moses] shalt put upon Aaron the holy garments, and anoint him, and sanctify him; that he may minister unto me in the priest’s office. And thou shalt bring his sons, and clothe them with coats: And thou shalt anoint them, as thou didst anoint their father, that they may minister unto me in the priest’s office: for their anointing shall surely be an everlasting priesthood throughout their generations.
Just as the Law of Moses was preparatory to the Law of Christ, the Aaronic Priesthood is preparatory to what we call the Melchizedek Priesthood. When Christ came, he restored this higher, Melchizedek priesthood. Paul talks about it in Hebrews:
If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchizedek, and not be called after the order of Aaron? For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.
Now it’s not just worthy Levite men who can hold the priesthood, it’s all worthy men no matter what tribe you may or may not be from.
Christ, who wasn’t a Levite, gave this authority to his apostles, who, except for maybe one, weren’t Levites either. This really would have made the non-believers of his day super angry. Nonetheless, “…he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach, And to have power to heal sicknesses, and to cast out devils…”
Now, why is priesthood in general important? The priesthood is God’s authority to perform ordinances like baptism and giving the gift of the Holy Ghost. Authority is crucial. If you get pulled over for speeding and a cop hands you a ticket, you’ve got to pay it. But if you get pulled over and the ice cream man tries to write you a ticket —No. That’s not how it works. And the difference is authority. Baptism in any church is surely an act of faith and I’m sure God is more than happy about it, but ordinances are only binding when performed by someone authorized to do so.
Some faiths believe in a “priesthood of all believers.” In other words, if you essentially believe in Christ, you’ve got the priesthood. This idea is based off of 1 Peter 2:9,
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…
Latter-day Saints believe this is just Peter is likening believers unto the Israelites in Exodus 19 when God, “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.”
We don’t believe these verses justify a universal priesthood, especially since less than 10 chapters later, God instructs that only the Levites are to receive the priesthood. So we don’t believe the priesthood was universal then, nor was it universal when Peter referenced Exodus, nor is it universal today.
There also exist what Latter-day Saints call “priesthood keys.” Essentially, leaders within the priesthood hold “priesthood keys” that authorize them to direct the priesthood within their jurisdiction, so to speak. So for example, a bishop holds the keys necessary to direct the priesthood in his congregation. A stake president holds the keys for that group of congregations. The president of the Church holds all the keys necessary to direct priesthood-holders worldwide.
These priesthood keys were what Christ promised Peter in Matthew 16, “… thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 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.”
You can only receive the priesthood through the laying on of hands by someone who already holds the priesthood. In the Catholic Church, they believe that priesthood line of authority has been passed down in an unbroken line through Peter all the way up to the current Pope.
The Reformist, Martin Luther, disagreed with the idea of that unbroken line and instead taught the “priesthood of all believers” doctrine that we discussed earlier which most protestants believe–correct me if I’m wrong.
Latter-day Saints believe that after Christ and the apostles were killed, there was a falling away from Christ’s teachings and the priesthood line was broken. But we believe it was restored by divine messengers to Joseph Smith in the early 1800s. That’s a little priesthood crash course. Check out the link below for more info and have a great day!
- Check out this talk from Elder Dallin H. Oaks: https://bit.ly/1mC2Ic0
- More about priesthood in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
- Where are the keys and authority of the Priesthood?
- The price of priesthood power