Truth is not only
violated by falsehood;
it may be equally
outraged by silence.
Gospel Principles is an LDS’s teacher’s guide and study manual. Here is their story of how the LDS came to have the priesthood:
“In restoring the gospel, God again gave the priesthood to men. John the Baptist came in 1829 to ordain Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery to the Aaronic Priesthood (D&C 13; 27:8). Then Peter, James, and John, the presidency of the Church in ancient times, came and gave Joseph and Oliver the Melchizedek Priesthood and the keys of the kingdom of God D&C 27:12–13). Later, additional keys of the priesthood were restored by heavenly messengers such as Moses, Elias, and Elijah (D&C 110:11–16). Through the Restoration the priesthood was returned to the earth. Those who hold this priesthood today have the authority to perform ordinances such as baptism. They also have the authority to direct the Lord’s kingdom on earth.” (Gospel Principles, page 111.)
David Whitmer, who was a foundational member of the LDS and a witness to the Book of Mormon, rejects the LDS’s story about their priesthood. He insists that in their early years the LDS church did not have any type of priesthood at all. Then Sidney Rigdon convinced Joseph that the introduction of the Old Covenant priesthood would give the LDS more prestige. So Joseph had a revelation. And only at that stage did the priesthood became part and parcel of Mormonism. Here is Whitmer’s account:
“The next grievous error which crept into the church
was in ordaining high priests in June, 1831. This error was
introduced at the instigation of Sydney Rigdon. The office
of high priests was never spoken of, and never thought of
being established in the church until Rigdon came in.
Remember that we had been preaching from
August, 1829, until June, 1831 — almost two years
— and had baptized about 2,000 members into the
Church of Christ [the original name of the LDS church], and
had not one high priest. …
… This matter of the two orders of priesthood in the Church of Christ, and lineal priesthood of the old law being in the church, all originated in the mind of Sydney Rigdon. He explained these things to Brother Joseph in his way, out of the old Scriptures, and got Brother Joseph to inquire, etc. He would inquire, and as mouthpiece speak out the revelations just as they had it fixed up in their hearts — This is the way the High Priests and the “priesthood” as you have it, was introduced into the Church of Christ [the LDS church’s name at that stage — they’ve changed their name quite a few times] almost two years after its beginning ….” (An Address to All Believers in Christ, pages 35 and 64, David Whitmer.)
An early convert, William McLellin, also rejects the claim of the LDS church to having had the priesthood since 1829. (Although the LDS church was only officially established in 1830, they had functioned prior to that date.) He says, “I joined the church in 1831. For years I never heard of John the Baptist ordaining Joseph and Oliver. I heard not of James, Peter, and John doing so.” (An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins, Grant Palmer, pages 224-25).
Grant Palmer (a retired LDS seminary teacher) confirms in his book that “accounts of angelic ordinations from John the Baptist, Peter, James and John are in none of the journals, diaries, letters or printed matter until the mid-1830s.” (An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins, pages 223-4, 228-230).
It has been a longstanding habit of the LDS to sanitize their records, in order to present their church in a more favourable light. And we can only conclude that this was the case when it came to the origin of their priesthood.
The LDS maintains that Mormon priests have God’s authority to baptize, as well as to lay hands on people for the receiving of the Holy Ghost. But the biblical priests never ever did either of these things. Their purpose was to represent the people to God. They interceded in prayer for them, and made sin offerings on their behalf.
It was the prophet that represented God to the people, not the priest. And His prophets were individually called by Him.
On the other hand, the priesthood was an office that was inherited solely by men who were direct bloodline descendants of Levi. Never ever was it passed on by one man with so-called authority, to another, through the laying on of hands. Authority had nothing to do with it. It was the bloodline that was the deciding factor. Even then, not all men in the line of Levi were permitted to serve as priests. Besides the bloodline, there were additional qualifications laid down, that are carefully explained in Leviticus chapter 21.
Anyone who presumptuously performed the duties of a priest without being in that direct bloodline came under God’s judgment, as did King Uzziah in 2 Chronicles 26:16-21. That’s why the Jews were so strict about their genealogies.
To put it bluntly the whole LDS priesthood debacle is way out of line with biblical teaching. Furthermore, the fact that they use the Old Covenant priesthood (albeit incorrectly), and at the same time claim that they are restoration of the New Covenant church just doesn’t make sense.
In line with all other biblical leadership positions, no man under the age of 30 was permitted to serve in the priesthood (c/f Numbers 4:34-35).
“And the Lord spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying, Take the sum of the sons of Kohath [the second son of Levi] from among the sons of Levi, after their families, by the house of their fathers, From thirty years old and upward even until fifty years old, all that enter into the host, to do the work in the tabernacle of the congregation.” (Numbers 4:1-3, KJV)
Christ fulfilled the law under the Old Covenant. Then he gave Himself as the final, perfect, unblemished sacrifice to cover the sins of those who trust in Him as their Messiah. In so doing, His shed blood ratified the New Covenant of grace and forgiveness, and thereby rendered the Old Covenant, with its priesthood and its temple, obsolete:
“In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.” (Hebrews 8:13, KJV).
Because the New Covenant was only ratified by His death, it wasn’t in force during His lifetime. Consequently, Christ lived as an Old Covenant Jew, under the Law. And as such, He regularly went to the Jewish temple.
His death ushered in a new era under a New Covenant. Remember that under the Old Covenant the priest represented man to God? Now, under the New Covenant, Christ represents all who are trusting in Him for salvation. He is now the sole mediator between man and God, and we have direct access to God through Him (1Timothy 2:5).
None of the apostles ever held the priesthood. And nowhere do we find mention of any church member ever being given the priesthood. That went out along with the Old Covenant, the temple and the sacrificial system.
The Levitical/Aaronic priesthood is Old Covenant theology, tied up with the sacrificial system and the temple. Whilst it is true that the New Testament talks about High Priests and so on, the people holding this office were Jews who were under the Old Covenant; not Christians who were under the New. The Old Covenant, which was between God and the nation of Israel, did not apply to the church. The church falls under the New Covenant. And it has never had either a temple or a Levitical/Aaronic priesthood.
The “spiritual” priesthood mentioned in 1 Peter 2:5 and 9 that pertains to the church under the New Covenant, has no connection with that of the Aaronic/Levitical priesthood. It applies to all believers who are “in Christ,” regardless of gender, race, or nationality (Galations 3:28). The first priestly sacrifice offered to God is themselves, as a living sacrifice (Romans 12.1.) They also offer the sacrifice of praise (Hebrews 13:15, I Peter 2:5) and the sacrifices of doing good and sharing (Hebrews 13.16).
“(Addressing the body of Christ, Peter said:)
… 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.” (1
Peter 2:5, KJV)
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” (Romans 12:1, KJV).
“By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” (Hebrews 13:15-16, KJV)
We need to bear in mind, when we read the New Testament, that the church only came into being at Pentecost, after Christ’s resurrection, in Acts 2, when the Holy Spirit was given. Prior to that everything was in transition.
Because the Lord Jesus came from the tribe of Judah, He didn’t qualify to hold the Levitical priesthood (Matthew 5:17). The requirement for the Melchizedek priesthood was the power of an indestructible life. Christ qualified in this regard as the grave couldn’t hold Him. He arose out of it in bodily form. And He still holds the Melchizedek Priesthood, according to the book of Hebrews:
“For he of whom these things are spoken pertaineth to
another tribe, of which no man gave attendance at the
altar. For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Juda;
of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood.
And it is yet far more evident: for that after the
similitude of Melchisedek there ariseth another priest, Who
is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but
after the power of an endless life. For he testifieth, Thou
art a priest for ever after the order of
Melchisedek.” (Hebrews 7:13-17 KJV)
“And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death: But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7:23-25 KJV).
“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; who gave himself a ransom for all …” (1 Timothy 2:5-6, KJV).
There are four types of priesthood revealed in the Bible:
The Mormon priesthood doesn’t fit in with any of these.
By “restoring” the temple and its Levitical/Aaronic priesthood, as well as introducing their own laws and ordinances, the LDS church has, in a way, partially taken Mormons back into the Old Covenant. However, it must be said that their temple, priesthood and laws and ordinances, bear no resemblance whatsoever to those of the Bible. So how Joseph Smith could ever have imagined that these things were being “restored” is beyond a thinking person’s comprehension.
The following article is relevant to LDS claims concerning their priesthood:
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