Realizing that to “follow” Christ and “live” his Gospel there are necessary ordinances and covenants to receive salvation and exaltation lead me to the question of the “priesthood”. How necessary is it when performing the ordinances of God?
For example, could someone baptize themselves? Is it possible for anyone to baptize another? Is the sincerity of those involved enough for God to accept the required act? In my research I kept coming back to the necessity of the priesthood, the power of God, the ability to officiate in-behalf of God and bind on earth and heaven the ordinance.
So, what is the priesthood of God, how is it used, how does one become a priesthood “holder” and is it on the earth today were natural places to start.
What Is the Priesthood?
The priesthood is the eternal power and authority of God. Through the priesthood He created and governs the heavens and the earth. By this power the universe is kept in perfect order. Through this power He accomplishes His work and glory, which is “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39).
Our Heavenly Father delegates His priesthood power to worthy individuals. The priesthood enables them to act in God’s name for the salvation of the human family. Through it they can be authorized to preach the gospel, administer the ordinances of salvation, and govern God’s kingdom on earth.
Why Do We Need the Priesthood on the Earth?
We must have priesthood authority to act in the name of God when performing the sacred ordinances of the gospel, such as baptism, confirmation, administration of the sacrament, and eternal marriage. If a man does not have the priesthood, even though he may be sincere, the Lord will not recognize ordinances he performs (see Matthew 7:21–23; Articles of Faith 1:5). These important ordinances must be performed on the earth by men holding the priesthood.
Men need the priesthood to preside in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and to direct the work of the Church in all parts of the world. When Christ lived on the earth, He chose His Apostles and ordained them so that they could lead His Church. He gave them the power and authority of the priesthood to act in His name. (See Mark 3:13–15; John 15:16.)
Another reason the priesthood is needed on the earth is so we can understand the will of the Lord and carry out His purposes. God reveals His will to His priesthood representative on the earth. The prophets serve as the spokesman for God to all all people on the earth.
Why is it essential for a man to have proper authority when he performs an ordinance?
In the Gospel the word ordinances usually refers to rites and ceremonies that the Lord has given us for our salvation, guidance, and comfort (see Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. , 548–49). These ordinances are physical actions that symbolize spiritual experiences. By taking part in them we receive the spiritual power we need to change our lives. For example, baptism represents, among other things, a washing away of sins following true repentance.
Heavenly Father requires that the ordinances of the gospel be performed by men who hold the proper priesthood authority. Only when an ordinance is properly performed by one with this authority will our Father in Heaven approve it.
There are two types of priesthood ordinances: those necessary for exaltation and those performed for our comfort and guidance.
Priesthood Ordinances Necessary for Exaltation
President Wilford Woodruff said: “No [one] will receive of the celestial glory except it be through the ordinances of the House of God” (in Journal of Discourses, 19:361; see also D&C 84:20–22). Ordinances that are necessary for us to return to Heavenly Father include baptism, confirmation, the sacrament, conferral of the Melchizedek Priesthood (for brethren), Washing and Anointing, the temple endowment, and temple marriage and receiving a Second Anointing.
Baptism is the first ordinance we must receive if we are to return to live with our Heavenly Father. To live with Him we must be spiritually clean and worthy. Through repentance and baptism we are forgiven of our sins and become pure enough to live in the Lord’s presence. (See Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood, Part A, lesson 29, “Baptism, a Continuing Covenant.”)
Being baptized is like beginning a new life. When we are baptized we are placed under the water. The scriptures compare this to burying, or leaving behind, our old self (see Romans 6:4; Mosiah 18:14; D&C 76:51).
When we come out of the water we are washed clean of sin. With our past sins washed away, we receive greater spiritual power to change our lives and become more like Heavenly Father.
After we are baptized we receive the ordinance of confirmation. In this ordinance, men who hold the Melchizedek Priesthood lay their hands on our heads and (1) confirm us members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and (2) bestow on us the gift of the Holy Ghost, also called the “baptism of fire” (2 Nephi 31:13).
- “Bestowing the gift of the Holy Ghost is a Melchizedek Priesthood ordinance.”
Joseph Smith said: “The baptism of water, without the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost attending it, is of no use; they are necessarily and inseparably connected. An individual must be born of water and the Spirit in order to get into the kingdom of God” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith , 360).
What advantages are we given with the gift of the Holy Ghost?
The gift of the Holy Ghost gives us the right, through our faith, to have the Holy Ghost as our guide. The Holy Ghost helps us obey the laws, principles, and ordinances of the gospel. He bears witness of the Father and the Son (see 3 Nephi 28:11), shows things to come (see John 16:13), brings things to our remembrance (see John 14:26), and teaches us the truth of all things (see Moroni 10:5). (See Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood, Part A, lesson 30, “The Gift of the Holy Ghost.”)
Conferral of the Melchizedek Priesthood
“To become exalted, we must receive the Melchizedek Priesthood.”
Worthy adult members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints should have the Melchizedek Priesthood conferred on them and be ordained to an office in that priesthood. This priesthood allows a man to receive the power and authority of God. It becomes a source of knowledge for him, helping him understand spiritual things. With it he can be authorized to perform the ordinances of salvation for other people, both living and dead.
The Temple Ordinances
“Exaltation comes through temple ordinances.”
The ordinance of anointing with oil on the head or body as a sign of sanctification and consecration in preparation for the endowment of “power from on high.”2 This anointing was combined with the ordinance of washing.3 In addition, the ordinance of blessing of the sick included anointing with oil.4 Latter-day Saints also used the term anointed in the metaphorical sense to mean chosen, elected, or otherwise designated by God to some position or responsibility.5 (Anointing)
The temple would be a place for them to conduct “your anointings, and your washings, and your baptisms for the dead, and your solemn assemblies, and your memorials for your sacrifices by the sons of Levi, and for your oracles in your most holy places wherein you receive conversations, and your statutes and judgments, for the beginning of the revelations and foundation of Zion, and for the glory, honor, and endowment of all her municipals, … by the ordinance of my holy house, which my people are always commanded to build unto my holy name.” (D&C 124:39.)Among the ordinances we perform in the Church are these: baptism, sacrament, naming and blessing of infants, administering to the sick, setting apart to callings in the Church, ordaining to offices. In addition there are higher ordinances, performed in the temples. These include washings, anointings, the endowment, and the sealing ordinance, spoken of generally as temple marriage. (Preparing for the Temple)
The endowment is a sacred ordinance performed only in the temple. President Brigham Young said, “Your endowment is, to receive all those ordinances in the House of the Lord, which are necessary for you, after you have departed this life, to enable you to walk back to the presence of the Father, passing the angels who stand as sentinels, being enabled to give them the key words, the signs and tokens, pertaining to the Holy Priesthood, and gain your eternal exaltation” (in Journal of Discourses, 2:31).
The temple endowment teaches us many things that we must know and do in order to return to our Father in Heaven. During the endowment we also promise the Lord to obey the laws of sacrifice and chastity and to be willing to give everything we have to help in His work. Because these promises are so sacred, we receive the endowment only after we have shown diligence in keeping Heavenly Father’s commandments. To remind us of these promises, we are given a sacred garment to wear.
The ordinance of temple marriage is also necessary for us to become like our Father in Heaven. Temple marriage makes it possible for us to have eternal families. When we receive this ordinance worthily and keep the covenants we make, our families will be blessed to live together throughout eternity. Parents should teach children reverence for the temple and prepare them for temple marriage.
Doctrine and Covenants 131:1–4. why is it essential to be married in the temple
Washing of feet is a gospel ordinance; it is a holy and sacred rite, one performed by the saints in the seclusion of their temple sanctuaries. It is not done before the world or for worldly people. . . .
The Washing of the Feet, Bearing the Name of Christ, and Being Sealed Up Unto Eternal Life:
While reclining at the Passover table, Jesus and His Apostles ate the meal and presumably observed the rites that attended that ceremony. He then introduced the ordinance of the washing of feet. After doing so, He questioned them, “Know ye what I have done to you?” (John 13:12.)
What He had done was to perform an ordinance found only in holy places where those who are to bear His name are cleansed from “the blood [and sins] of this wicked generation.” (See D&C 88:74‑75, 137‑41.) This was a manifestation of the Savior’s supreme love “to seal his friends up unto eternal life in his Father’s kingdom.” (Bruce R. McConkie, The Mortal Messiah, 4 vols., Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1979‑81, 4:48.)
As part of the restoration of all things, the ordinance of washing of feet has been restored in the dispensation of the fulness of times. In keeping with the standard pattern of revealing principles and practices line upon line and precept upon precept, the Lord revealed his will concerning the washing of feet little by little until the full knowledge of the endowment and all temple ordinances had been given. . . .
The Lord has prepared an orderly way for His priesthood to be given to His sons on the earth. A worthy male member of the Church receives the priesthood “by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof” (Articles of Faith 1:5).
This is the same way men received the priesthood long ago, even in the days of Moses: “And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron” (Hebrews 5:4). Aaron received the priesthood from Moses, his priesthood leader (see Exodus 28:1). Only those who hold the priesthood can ordain others, and they can do so only when authorized by those who hold the keys for that ordination.
Men cannot buy and sell the power and authority of the priesthood. Nor can they take this authority upon themselves. In the New Testament we read of a man named Simon who lived when Christ’s Apostles presided over the Church. Simon became converted and was baptized into the Church. Because he was a skillful magician, the people believed he had the power of God. But Simon did not have the priesthood, and he knew it.
Simon knew that the Apostles and the other priesthood leaders of the Church had the true power of God. He saw them use their priesthood to do the Lord’s work, and he wanted this power for himself. He offered to buy the priesthood. (See Acts 8:9–19.) But Peter, the chief Apostle, said, “Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money” (Acts 8:20).
How Do Men Properly Use the Priesthood?
The priesthood should be used to bless the lives of our Heavenly Father’s children here on earth. Priesthood holders should preside in love and kindness. They should not force their families and others to obey them. The Lord has told us that the power of the priesthood cannot be controlled except in righteousness (see D&C 121:36). When we try to use the priesthood to gain wealth or fame or for any other selfish purpose, “behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man” (D&C 121:37).
When a man uses the priesthood “by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned” (D&C 121:41), he can do many wonderful things for his family and others. He can baptize, confirm, and administer the sacrament when authorized by those who hold the keys for those ordinances. He can bless the sick. He can give priesthood blessings to his family members to encourage and protect them when they have special needs. He can also help other families with these ordinances and blessings when asked to do so.
Men use priesthood authority to preside in the Church in such callings as branch president, bishop, quorum president, stake president, and mission president. Men and women who hold positions in the Church as officers and teachers work under the direction of priesthood leaders and under the guidance of the Holy Ghost.
What Blessings Come When We Use the Priesthood Properly?
The Lord has promised great blessings to righteous priesthood holders who use the priesthood to bless others:
“Then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven.
“The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever” (D&C 121:45–46).
President David O. McKay promised every man who uses the priesthood in righteousness that he “will find his life sweetened, his discernment sharpened to decide quickly between right and wrong, his feelings tender and compassionate, yet his spirit strong and valiant in defense of right; he will find the priesthood a never failing source of happiness—a well of living water springing up unto eternal life” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: David O. McKay , 116).
Priesthood Ordinances for Comfort and Guidance
The Lord has given many priesthood ordinances that we may receive or perform for guidance and comfort. These include the naming and blessing of children, administering to the sick, patriarchal blessings, father’s blessings, blessings of guidance and comfort, and dedication of graves.
The ordinance of the sacrament reminds us of the promises we made when we were baptized. We renew our baptismal covenant by partaking of the sacrament. As we partake of the bread and water, we remember our Savior’s life and His sacrifice. We remember our promise to follow Him. When taken worthily, the sacrament is a source of spiritual strength. It helps us develop greater power to keep the commandments. With sincere repentance it helps cleanse us of the sins we commit after baptism.
Naming and Blessing of Children
Children are usually given a name and blessing in a fast and testimony meeting. This ordinance is performed by someone who holds the Melchizedek Priesthood, preferably the father (see D&C 20:70).
After blessing his baby son, a new father spoke about this experience in his testimony. He said: “I am very touched this afternoon. When I stood to bless Mark I wasn’t sure what I was going to say, though I did have a few things in mind. But when I actually held him in my hands and began the prayer, impressions began crowding in on my mind. I wasn’t left on my own to give my son a blessing: the Lord inspired me through the power of the Holy Ghost to know what to say” (Jay A. Parry, “Miracles Today?” Ensign, Jan. 1978, 53).
“Faithful elders have the power to give the sick a blessing of health.”
Just as Jesus blessed the sick, faithful Melchizedek Priesthood holders have the power to bless and heal the sick. Brethren who administer to the sick should seek to know and express the will of the Lord in the blessing (see D&C 42:43–48).
Patriarchal blessings are inspired blessings given to worthy Church members by ordained patriarchs. These blessings give a person direction and counsel from the Lord. They also reveal the person’s lineage in the royal house of Israel. The Church records and preserves patriarchal blessings given by ordained patriarchs. These blessings are personal and sacred and should not be made public.
A father who holds the Melchizedek Priesthood may give father’s blessings to his children. These blessings may be especially helpful when a child goes to school, goes on a mission, gets married, enters military service, or faces special challenges. A family may record a father’s blessing for family records, but it is not preserved in Church records.
Blessings of Guidance and Comfort
A blessing of guidance and comfort may be given by a husband, bishop, branch president, home teacher, or other Melchizedek Priesthood holder. These blessings are similar to father’s blessings. They help individuals prepare for special times or overcome problems that require special help from our Heavenly Father.
The dedication of graves is performed by a Melchizedek Priesthood holder. The dedicatory prayer usually consecrates the burial plot as the resting place of the deceased, prays that the place will be hallowed and protected until the Resurrection (where appropriate), includes words of comfort for the family of the deceased, and includes other thoughts as the Spirit directs.
Heavenly Father has given priesthood ordinances to bless us. These ordinances are accompanied by great spiritual power that helps us become more like Heavenly Father and prepare to return to Him.
To be accepted by God, these ordinances must be performed by the proper priesthood authority. President Lorenzo Snow said: “There is but one way by which exaltation and glory can be secured. We have to be baptized for the remission of sins and have hands laid upon us for the reception of the Holy Ghost. These and other ordinances are absolutely necessary for exaltation and glory” (Millennial Star, 27 June 1895, 405).
We should remember that the promised blessings associated with any ordinance are realized only through righteous living.
- James 5:14–15 (elders have the power to bless the sick)
- 3 Nephi 11:32–40 (necessity for baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost)
- Mormon 9:24 (laying on of hands to bless the sick)
- Doctrine and Covenants 20:41 (receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost)
- Doctrine and Covenants 105:33 (endowment to be given)
- D&C 84; 107 (revelations on priesthood, including the oath and covenant of the priesthood in D&C 84:33–40)
- D&C 20:38–67 (duties of the priesthood explained)
- Doctrine and Covenants 107:1–14 (differences between the Melchizedek Priesthood and the Aaronic Priesthood)
“We should all realize that there is nothing in the world more powerful than the priesthood of God” (N. Eldon Tanner, in Conference Report, Apr. 1976, 63; or Ensign, May 1976, 41).
In the following story, President N. Eldon Tanner explained the importance of being worthy to receive the priesthood:
“When I was a bishop I had six boys in my ward old enough to be ordained elders. I could only recommend five of them, because one of them wasn’t ready. We had talked about it several times, and he had said to me, ‘I am not worthy.’ He felt very bad about it, but he didn’t expect to be recommended. … His uncle came to me and said, ‘You are surely not going to hold that boy back with his five friends going forward.’ He pled with me to let him go. He said, ‘You will be driving him out of the Church if you don’t.’
“I explained to this man, ‘The priesthood is the most important thing that we can give this boy. We are not handing the priesthood out. … This boy and I understand each other, and he is not ready to be ordained an elder.’ And he wasn’t recommended.
“A few years later I was attending a general conference … , and a young man came up to me and said, ‘President Tanner, you wouldn’t remember me. I am the boy whom you didn’t recommend to be ordained an elder.’ As he put his hand out, he said, ‘I want to thank you for it. I am a bishop now in California. If you had recommended me when I wasn’t worthy, I possibly never would have appreciated what the priesthood is and what is expected of one, and surely I would never have been a bishop as I am today’” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1973, 122; or Ensign, July 1973, 94).
We must all learn “that the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness” (D&C 121:36). To receive power from God, we must become worthy of it.
We should always remember that we hold God’s authority and power and that we represent Him. When we exercise the priesthood, we should ask ourselves, “What would Jesus Christ have me do in this situation? Am I acting the way He would have me act?”
LDS Priesthood Manual – A, Lesson 1 – The Priesthood