During 2012, LDS members will be studying the latest manual published by their church, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: George Albert Smith. We will evaluate this book regularly, chapter by chapter, by showing interesting quotes and providing an Evangelical Christian take on this manual. The text that is underlined is from the manual, with our comments following.
Chapter 5: The Holy Priesthood—for the Blessing of God’s Children
Jesus Christ restored divine authority to the earth during His mortal ministry. When the Savior came in the meridian of time, He found that great city of Jerusalem teeming with evil. The inhabitants were living in such a way that they had lost divine authority, so [God] sent His Son into the world and began again a Church possessing divine power. … There were those in His line who were good people, … and there were others who were still officiating in the Priesthood, but it was necessary for the Savior to come to restore divine authority. … He organized a Church under the direction of our Heavenly Father. He conferred divine authority upon His associates and directed them as to what they should do. … He had divine authority, and the righteous ones recognized Him to be the Son of God. Some think Him only to be a good man. We believe He came upon the earth not alone to teach the people what to do, but to confer on His associates divine authority to administer the ordinances of His Church. …
Mormonism teaches that divine authority was established by God during Old Testament times. When Jesus came to the earth, Smith says that He came to “restore divine authority” and give this to His church. This authority came through the priesthood, returned by Jesus to allow His disciples to administer saving ordinances such as baptism, confirmation, the sacrament distribution, and marriage in the temple.
According to the LDS manual Gospel Principles, there are two divisions of priesthood: Melchizedek and Aaronic. Mormonism says that the Aaronic Priesthood was given to Aaron and his sons, and Mormon males who hold this office today can participate in the sacrament and baptism. Those holding the Aaronic Priesthood can serve as deacons, teachers, priests, and bishops. The Melchizedek Priesthood is the authority given to those presiding over wards, branches, stakes, and missions. Those with this position can serve as elders, high priests, patriarchs, seventies, and apostles.
If Jesus came to “restore” the priesthood so that these rites could be performed and these offices held, we must consider how the original priesthood was set up. It was Aaron and his descendants who were named as being the priestly line of Israel. From generation to generation, they were considered to be a special class set apart to do the priestly duties commanded by God. As the New Illustrated Bible Dictionary points out:
“The Bible often speaks of priests and Levites as if these two offices were practically the same (1 Chr. 23:2; 24:6, 31). They were closely related, in that both priests and Levites sprang from a common ancestor. They traced their lineage back to Levi, head of one of the original twelve tribes of Israel…. Priests officiated at worship by offering various offerings and by leading the people to confess their sins…. In their function of offering sacrifices at the altar, the priests acted as mediators between people and God, offering sacrifices so that sin might be forgiven.” (p. 1029).
In addition, the High Priest hailed from the line of Aaron. This man was set apart from the other priests by the clothes he wore, the duties he performed, and the requirements placed upon him. One of the most important duties was to offer a sin offering for both his sins and the sins of the people (Lev. 4:3-21). On the Day of Atonement (the tenth day of the seventh month), this high priest entered the Holy of Holies located behind the veil and sprinkled lamb’s blood on the mercy seat, which represented God’s throne. This was done in order to make atonement for both himself and the people for the sins committed during the past year.
While the “priesthood” has been accepted by millions of Mormons as something that was restored from Old (and New) Testament times, several important questions must be answered:
- Do those Mormon males holding the Aaronic priesthood trace their lineage back to Aaron? If not, why not if the Aaronic priesthood is truly a “restoration”?
- Since the duties of the Aaronic priests are clearly laid out in the Old Testament, how does the office of Aaronic Priest from biblical times compare to those duties of the Aaronic priesthood holders in Mormonism?
- Since the main duty for priests was sacrificing animals to atone for peoples’ sins, why don’t Mormon priests sacrifice in their temples?
When it comes to their lineage, every Mormon is told during the Patriarchal Blessing which tribe he or she is from. While I have met many who have come from Ephraim or Judah, I don’t believe I have ever met anyone claiming to be Levites. In biblical times, only Levites could hold the priesthood. If the priesthood has been restored in Mormonism, then Mormons need to explain why those males supposedly coming from outside the Levitical family can claim to be priests from Aaron’s line.
In addition, the Old and New Testament allowed for only one temple, the one in Jerusalem. While the Samaritans had built their own temple on Mt. Gerizim, it was not considered to have the authority of the Jerusalem temple. (Jesus referred to this issue in John 4 when he spoke to the Samaritan woman.) Yet in Mormonism there are more than a hundred temples, none of which is in Jerusalem. Mormon temples were built for special ordinances such as baptisms for the dead and marriages. However, there is absolutely no evidence such rites ever took place in the temple—nothing in the Bible says so and there is no outside evidence of this either. Instead, the temple was a place for blood sacrifices. If the priesthood and temple work were “restored” by Joseph Smith, why such differences from biblical times?
Once again, George Albert Smith said that Jesus came to “restore divine authority.” It would seem to make sense that this “restoration” would include doing things the way the Old Testament said they ought to be done. Priests always came from the tribe of Levi. A High Priest would also be a Levite. The temple would be a place for animal sacrifices.
It is recorded and recognized in heaven and on earth that creeds and denominations multiplied after [Jesus Christ] left the earth, and the churches increased in number upon the earth, until in the days of Joseph Smith, our beloved prophet, there were many denominations. There were many men who pretended to possess divine authority, and I think some of them thought they had received it. … When the time came and the world had lost the authority or Priesthood, the Lord called a humble boy and gave him a heavenly manifestation and talked to him, told him what he should do, and sent other messengers and heavenly beings from time to time, the result of which was the organization of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and in that Church was deposited divine authority. …
Mormonism teaches in the “Great Apostasy.” It was during this time when divine authority supposedly left the earth, only to be restored by Joseph Smith. This is what is meant by the Restoration. In fact, in Joseph Smith—History 1:19, Smith was told by God that “all” the churches were “all wrong” and “all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: ‘they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.’” Thus, according to the First Vision, the power, or authority, needed to be restored once more.
This background is important to understand because Mormon Church leaders have consistently taught that their church is the only one that has authority and that men could not perform the ordinances necessary unless this authority was restored, which they believe was done by Joseph Smith. This is made clear by the rest of George Albert Smith’s words.
When Joseph Smith was a young man the Lord directed him to translate the Book of Mormon. On one occasion when Joseph and Oliver Cowdery were translating, the Lord sent a holy being to answer their questions about baptism. Who was he that came? John the Baptist, who held the Aaronic Priesthood. Where did he come from? He came from heaven. … He appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery as a glorious resurrected being. He came directed by our Heavenly Father to confer the Aaronic Priesthood upon Joseph and Oliver, for it was not to be found any place in all the world. It was necessary that the heavens open and a man who had held the Priesthood, and still held it, should come and confer it.
Many questions need to be answered by the faithful Latter-day Saint:
1) Did Joseph Smith belong to Aaron? Did Oliver Cowdery?
2) If they did not come from the tribe of Aaron, how can it be said that the Aaronic priesthood was conferred upon these two men? After all, only Levites were priests.
3) What was the purpose of restoring a priesthood used in the Old Testament sacrificial system?
4) Where in the New Testament does it say a Christian is supposed to hold the Aaronic priesthood? (After all, if the main purpose of the Aaronic priesthood was to practice the sacrificing of animals to atone for sins, what need was there for such an office?)
Following that, Peter, James and John, who held the Melchizedek Priesthood, conferred that Priesthood upon Joseph and Oliver, and the Lord directed the organization of the Church, with a Presidency, consisting of a president and two counselors; also a Quorum of Twelve Aposltes, a Partriarch, High Priests, Seventies, Elders, Priests, Teachers, and Deacons; the same kind of an organization that existed in the primitive church, as far as authority was concerned.
Just what is the Melchizedek priesthood? After all, nobody in the Old Testament (except for one mysterious Person–Melchizedek himself–who is referred to in Genesis 14:18ff) ever held such an office. Yet it is in the New Testament book of Hebrews that this office is referenced and to which we’ll consider now.
Using the New King James (for easier readability), let’s consider what the author of Hebrews says:
Hebrews 7:1-3: For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, 2 to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all, first being translated “king of righteousness,” and then also king of Salem, meaning “king of peace,” 3 without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, remains a priest continually.
Notice how Melchizedek—the king of Salem—is referenced to being like the Son of God Himself.
4 Now consider how great this man was, to whom even the patriarch Abraham gave a tenth of the spoils. 5 And indeed those who are of the sons of Levi, who receive the priesthood, have a commandment to receive tithes from the people according to the law, that is, from their brethren, though they have come from the loins of Abraham; 6 but he whose genealogy is not derived from them received tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. 7 Now beyond all contradiction the lesser is blessed by the better. 8 Here mortal men receive tithes, but there he receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives. 9 Even Levi, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, so to speak, 10 for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him.
While the Levites collected tithes, Abraham (the “lesser”) paid his tithe directly to Melchizedek (the “better”). There was something special about this man who was both priest and king. We must keep reading the next section subtitled “Need for a New Priesthood”:
11 Therefore, if perfection were through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need was there that another priest should rise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be called according to the order of Aaron? 12 For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law. 13 For He of whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no man has officiated at the altar.
Notice what verse 11 says: There was no need for a “restoration” of the Levitical priesthood going back to Aaron. Instead, there was, as verse 12 puts it, “a change.” Who was being referred to here? Obviously none other than Jesus Himself.
14 For it is evident that our Lord arose from Judah, of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood. 15 And it is yet far more evident if, in the likeness of Melchizedek, there arises another priest 16 who has come, not according to the law of a fleshly commandment, but according to the power of an endless life. 17 For He testifies:
“You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”
18 For on the one hand there is an annulling of the former commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness, 19 for the law made nothing perfect; on the other hand, there is the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God.
Quoting from the Messianic Psalm 110, this author of Hebrews said that Jesus is a fulfillment of prophecy who would “bring in a better hope” and allow people to “draw near to God.”
20 And inasmuch as He was not made priest without an oath 21 (for they have become priests without an oath, but He with an oath by Him who said to Him:
“The Lord has sworn
And will not relent,
‘You are a priest forever
According to the order of Melchizedek’”),
22 by so much more Jesus has become a surety of a better covenant.
23 Also there were many priests, because they were prevented by death from continuing. 24 But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. 25 Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.
26 For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; 27 who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. 28 For the law appoints as high priests men who have weakness, but the word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son who has been perfected forever.
I realize that’s a lot of quoting of scripture going on here, but please understand how so very important this passage is if we hope to comprehend the New Testament meaning for priesthood. Notice in verse 24 how Jesus has “an unchangeable priesthood” because, as verse 25 adds, He lives forever. In a note to that verse from an earlier King James Version edition published by Deseret Book, it reads, “Or, which passeth not from one to another.” And that’s exactly what it means! As this passages puts it, Jesus is the High Priest Himself who came to this earth—the Incarnation!—and offered Himself up for the sins of His people (Matt. 1:21). Verse 28 says that fallible humans could never play the role of priest in a perfect manner, but now Jesus Christ Himself as the “author” of salvation has fulfilled the original intention. Among His traits, Jesus:
- Is sympathetic to our weaknesses (Heb. 4:15);
- Did not assume the office of high priest for glory (Heb. 5:5);
- Was called by God to the Melchizedek priesthood, not the lower order of Aaron as all previous human high priests (Heb. 5:10);
- Did not need to make a sacrifice for his own sins, as previous human priests had to do (Heb. 7:27-28);
- Offered Himself rather than animals (Heb. 9:12; 10:1-4);
- Made a sacrifice once for all, not needing to be repeated (Heb. 9:26; 10:10, 12);
- Performs His ministry in heaven itself (Heb. 4:14; 9:11);
- Is seated at the right hand of God (Heb. 10:12).
As Hebrews 5:9-11 put it,
9 And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him, 10 called by God as High Priest “according to the order of Melchizedek,” 11 of whom we have much to say, and hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.
Because of the role Jesus plays as both king and priest, we are able to have a mediator between God and man: the Man Jesus Christ” (1 Tim. 2:5). Therefore, what need is there for humans to hold the Aaronic priesthood today? What need is there for someone other than Jesus to hold the Melchizedek priesthood? Because of this authority found in Christ, all Christians have great authority, as they have been given the opportunity to be called children of God through faith, not by any ordinance (John 1:12; Rom. 8:14; 9:8). According to the New Illustrated Bible Dictionary, “Hence, there is no longer a need for priests to offer a sacrifice to atone for man’s sins. A permanent sacrifice has been made by Jesus Christ through His death on the Cross” (p. 1030).
According to 1 Peter 2:5, all Christians—regardless of race, gender, or age—hold a holy priesthood. It reads that “you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” What this means is that this spiritual priesthood is not meant to be held by just men from the tribe of Aaron. It’s available to all Christians who are justified by faith and who come from Abraham’s seed, adopted as sons (Gal. 3:21-4:5). In that passage, Galatians 3:28 reads, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
According to this, even females—denied the priesthood by the Mormon Church—are heirs according to God’s promise! However, Mormonism teachesa woman cannot attain godhood without a human husband to take her there. Such an idea is anathema to those who hold the authority of the Bible in high regard!
The same authority that [Joseph Smith] had has been conferred upon your sons, and they will be required by our Father in heaven to minister in the ordinances of the Gospel. The responsibility that came to Joseph Smith has not been lost by his departure, it has fallen upon other shoulders. Our Father in heaven has raised up from time to time those who have had the authority to speak in His name, to administer in the ordinances of the Gospel, and to bless the children of men. They have shared that honor with you and with your children.
The Bible cannot be used to support such a statement.
I am grateful that in this day and age the Lord has revealed the Gospel again. The Father and the Son appeared; men who held the Priesthood formerly came and conferred that Priesthood upon humble men and they in turn were commanded to confer it upon others. So the Gospel and the Priesthood have been made available to all who will qualify to receive the same, and that is the Lord’s way. Your mission is a very remarkable one, you men who bear the Priesthood. Upon you has been conferred divine authority. You did not obtain your right to preach and teach the gospel and officiate in its ordinances as a result of training in a college or university. You received your authority from men divinely commissioned to act as servants of the Lord, and it was conferred upon you by those who received it direct from Jesus Christ our Lord.
For much of the rest of the chapter, George Albert Smith’s words pokes criticism at the Christian church. For example, look at how he refers to “training in a college or university,” saying Mormons don’t need formal education to have authority to perform ordinances. It is clear he meant this as a denigration of the Christian churches from his day that had Bible colleges and seminaries to train people to become ministers in the Gospel. Many Christian denominations also confer licensure or ordination upon those who have been trained. Consider the pre-1990 temple ordinance ceremony (changed in April 1990) that in the LDS temples contained a scene where Lucifer hires a minister to preach what Mormons view as false doctrine (termed “the orthodox religion” in the ceremony).
The pastor was first interviewed by Lucifer who asked him if he had “been to college and received training for the ministry.” Lucifer told the pastor that if he was able to convert people to his “orthodox religion,” he would pay him well. Lucifer then took the preacher to two characters portraying “Adam and Eve” and told him they “desire religion.” The preacher tried to convince Adam to believe in a God who filled the universe, yet was so small that he could dwell in a person’s heart, and a God that is surrounded by a myriad of beings who have been saved by grace. He also tried to convince Adam of the perils of hell, “a lake of fire and brimstone where the wicked are cast.” Adam, the “good guy” in the scenario, rejected his teachings. Of course this was intended to make Christian pastors look like hirelings of Satan bent on convincing God’s children to believe in a false gospel. This scene was dropped entirely from the ceremony, but George Albert Smith’s reference to a “college or university” would have been most understandable to all Mormons of his day. (In fact, the vast majority of those belonging to the LDS Church today know nothing about these temple ceremony changes since so many members were born after this time or did not attend the temple before then. For more information on this, go here.
The power and authority of God can be found only in His true Church. I have had men ask me: “Of what benefit is your church more than some other church?” I have tried, in a tactful way, to explain to them the difference. Any organization may band together for worship, but that does not give them divine authority. Any group of churches may mass together and organize community churches. That does not confer divine authority. Men may unite for good purposes, but authority from our Heavenly Father is only obtained in his way, and his way in former days was by calling and ordaining men and setting them apart for the work. The same thing is true in our day. …
Notice how Smith says that people can “unite for good purposes but authority from our Heavenly Father” is limited to those belonging to “His true Church.” For those who might say I’m taking his words out of context, consider the logical thinking of the Latter-day Saints who would agree with Smith:
- The power and authority of God do not exist in any church that is not the “true” church.
- The power and authority of God are found only in the true church, known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
- Therefore, besides the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, all other churches (Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Protestant) do not have the power and authority of God because they do not belong to “His true Church.”
People should be made to understand that just to bow before the Lord in prayer does not give them divine authority. To live up to the requirements that are made of honesty, virtue, truth, etc., does not give them divine authority. … It is not sufficient that we pray, that we attend church. It is necessary that we possess divine authority, and it is the claim that we possess that authority that has brought upon this Church much of the persecution that has followed it from the beginning. But it is the truth and many of our Father’s children are beginning to observe the effect of divine authority in this Church. They see the development that is made in the lives of men and women.
Christians of all colors “bow before the Lord in prayer,” but it may appear He is directly aiming his barbs at the ecclesiastical churches that regularly practice kneeling. What is most important for a church to possess authority from God? Smith says it’s “divine authority.” Who has it? Nobody except those holding the LDS priesthood and belonging to the Mormon Church. I’m glad the LDS correlation committee included these words in this manual. If you’re a Latter-day Saint, please realize that this is not the only time when LDS leaders have claimed their church is the only one with authority. Consider other quotes:
2nd President Brigham Young: “The people called Christians are shrouded in ignorance, and read the Scriptures with darkened understandings” (Brigham Young, October 8, 1859, Journal of Discourses 7:333).
3rd President John Taylor: “What does the Christian world know about God? Nothing; yet these very men assume the right and power to tell others what they shall not believe in. Why so far as the things of God are concerned, they are the veriest of fools; they know neither God nor the things of God” (John Taylor, May 6, 1870, Journal of Discourses 13:225).
6th President Joseph F. Smith: “…for I contend that the Latter-day Saints are the only good and true Christians, that I know anything about in the world. There are a good many people who profess to be Christians, but they are not founded on the foundation that Jesus Christ himself has laid” (Joseph F. Smith, November 2, 1891, [Stake conference message], Collected Discourses, 2:305. Ellipses mine).
Apostle Bruce R. McConkie: “Modern Christians, as part of their various creeds and doctrines, have inherited many myths, legends, and traditions from their ancestors — all of which views they falsely assume are part of true religion… Indeed, it would be difficult to assemble a greater number of myths into one philosophical system than are now found in the philosophies of modern Christendom. Except for its ethical teachings, so-called Christianity does not come much nearer the truth in many respects than did the Lamanite legends uncovered by Cortez and his followers, or than the Greek, Roman, or Norse mythology. A myth is a myth whether it parades under Biblical names or openly acclaims itself to be the figment of someone’s imagination.” (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 1966, p. 525. Ellipses mine).
“False creeds make false churches. There is no salvation in believing a lie. Every informed, inspired, and discerning person is revolted by the absurdities and scripture-defying pronouncements in the creeds of Christendom, whose chief function is to define and set forth the nature and kind of Being that God is” (Bruce R. McConkie, The Mortal Messiah: From Bethlehem to Calvary 1:30. Footnote 2).
It is fine to hold that there are differences between Mormons and Christians, even to claim that the Mormon Church is the only true church. I have no problem with that claim, even if I might disagree. But it is too confusing to confer the label of “Christian” upon “Mormonism,” thereby making Mormonism and Christianity appear to be synonymous to all outsiders. After all, there are many more differences than similarities in our beliefs. This fact is acknowledged by the Encyclopedia of Mormonism:
“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not see itself as one Christian denomination among many, but rather as God’s latter-day restoration of the fulness of Christian faith and practice. Thus, from its earliest days LDS Christians sought to distinguish themselves from Christians of other traditions. Other forms of Christianity, while bearing much truth and doing much good under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, are viewed as incomplete, lacking the authority of the priesthood of God, the temple ordinances, the comprehensive understanding of the Plan of Salvation, and the nonparadoxical understanding of the Godhead. Therefore, the designation ‘saint’ reflects attachment to the New Testament church, and also designates a difference from Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant Christianity in the current dispensation” (Encyclopedia of Mormonism 1:270).
As McConkie’s son explained, “I think the evangelicals have engendered a suspicion about Mormonism. They sincerely believe we’re wrong, just as we sincerely believe they’re wrong” (Jim McConkie, PBS Religion and Ethics Newsweekly, April 22, 2007). Once more, it’s fair to hold another gospel as being true. What is not fair is to make it appear, at least on the surface, as just another Christian denomination. It would be like starting a Youtube campaign labeled “I’m a Mormon too,” and then show how I disagree that Joseph Smith is a true prophet, I reject the LDS temple, and I drink coffee. But, by golly, I’m a Mormon too.” Instead of making Mormonism and Christianity look the same, why not call this religion “Mormonism” and label its followers as “saints” (as Smith called them from the quote above). To confuse the issue by using muddled terminology is neither right nor fair.
I personally do not desire to be understood to be finding fault and criticizing the people who belong to the various denominations of the world. I am thankful that there are in so many of them good men and good women who believe in him and with the light that they have serve God; but the fact remains that our Father has established in this world, his Church. He has conferred upon men in this day his authority, and there is no other authority in the world that he will recognize but that which he himself has instituted.
Some Mormons may point to this paragraph and say, “See, we’re not looking to find fault and criticize the Christians.” But isn’t promoting the idea how God established the Mormon Church, conferring upon the men from its body alone with authority, and “there is no other authority in the world that he will recognize” a criticism against traditional Christianity that has some deep implications? While Mormons may say Christians are good, moral people, isn’t the claim that they have no authority from God more than just an implicit criticism?
It’s like the person who says nobody should judge anyone else. So ask this person, “Why are you judging those who judge? Isn’t this a judgement call?” This is what we call an argument by suicide since it is self-defeating. In the same way, George Albert Smith has made a definite judgment call, one that says only those in the Mormon Church have authority from God to perform ordinances. Mormons who feel Christians are not fair to their religion must understand that the shot was first fired by Joseph Smith. After all, he is the one who was supposedly quoting God, saying not to follow any of the Christian churches because they didn’t have authority.
Priesthood ordinances are essential for us to enter the celestial kingdom. If we were like all other denominations, we might seek the Lord and receive his blessings, because every man that does good in this world receives a blessing; we might have all the cardinal virtues and make them our own, but without the power of God and the authority of the holy Priesthood it is not possible for men to attain to the celestial kingdom.
Once more, Smith attacks those who do not have “the power of God and the authority of the holy Priesthood.” Without these, it is impossible to attain the very best the Mormon Church offers to its members: The Celestial Kingdom and Godhood.
The only plan that will prepare men for the Celestial kingdom is the plan that has been given by Jesus Christ, our Lord; and the only authority that will qualify men to teach and to officiate in the ordinances of the Gospel properly is the authority of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Joseph Smith, Jr. was called by God to be His prophet and through him was restored to the earth the Holy Melchizedek Priesthood which is the power of God delegated to man to act in His name. Through this Priesthood every ordinance of the Gospel of our Lord, Jesus Christ, necessary for the salvation of the children of man, is authoritatively administered.
Yet, if as demonstrated above, there was no priesthood to “restore,” then what authority does the Mormon Church really have?
How would it affect us if we had to part with the authority that God has conferred upon us? It would mean that there had been closed to us the doors of the celestial kingdom. It would mean that the crowning blessing toward which I have been taught to look since I was a child would not be realized. … The companionship of my loved ones, … who are dear to me almost as life itself, could not be enjoyed in the celestial kingdom.
Notice the argumentation: If there was no authority given to man, there would be no access to the Celestial Kingdom that Smith had been taught since he was a child. This would mean he would not have companionship of his loved ones. Therefore, since these are things he likes and wants to have in the end, he deems that power and authority really has been given to the man Joseph Smith. Once more, no biblical verses are used in support of this idea. This is one of those cases where wishful thinking takes preeminence over Truth.
As Apostle Jeffrey R. Holland said with tears in his eyes: “I don’t know how to speak about heaven in the traditional, lovely, paradisiacal, beauty that we speak of heaven—I wouldn’t know how to speak of heaven without my wife, my children. It would, it would not be heaven for me.” Later in the manual, Smith is reported to have said, “If I were to think, as so many think, that now that my beloved wife and my beloved parents are gone, that they have passed out of my life forever and that I shall never see them again, it would deprive me of one of the greatest joys that I have in life: the contemplation of meeting them again, and receiving their welcome and their affection, and of thanking them from the depths of a grateful heart for all they have done for me.”
Many Mormons don’t realize that Christians do believe they will be with their saved loved ones in heaven. Yes, some will not be there, but in the LDS system, how can a family’s Black Sheep exist in the Celestial if they didn’t even qualify for it? Won’t they be relegated to the Terrestrial or Telestial kingdoms? While Mormons may romanticize the Celestial Kingdom—becoming gods and goddesses with families who can be together forever—this is not what the Bible teaches. Therefore, a romanticized version of what we think is best should be disregarded, no matter how much a person might want something to be true. More on this in the forthcoming chapter 8 review.
You cannot go out into the world in any other Church or in all other Churches and find … men holding divine authority. Do not forget that. You belong to a choice body of men, … having had hands laid upon them, and receiving divine authority, making you partners with the Master of Heaven and Earth. I do not mean that you can’t laugh, smile, and enjoy life, but I do mean that there should be deep in every soul a consciousness that “I am my brother’s keeper. I hold authority from the Lord Jesus Christ—I am a bearer of the Holy Priesthood.” If we will do this we will not be found trifling with sacred things as some have done in the past.
Again, while not meant as an overt criticism of other churches, this ends up becoming an overt criticism of other churches. Without authority, Smith says, nothing matters as far as “sacred things” are considered. According to this mindset, Christians are deluded into thinking they have authority when they really have none at all.
Being a member of the Church and holding the Priesthood will not get us anywhere unless we are worthy. The Lord has said that every blessing that we desire is predicated upon obedience to His commandments. We may deceive our neighbors, and we may deceive ourselves with the idea that we are going through all right, but unless we keep the commandments of our Heavenly Father, unless we bear worthily this holy Priesthood that is so precious, we will not find our place in the celestial kingdom.
I believe that all Mormons realize how short they have fallen. The classic book The Miracle of Forgiveness, written by twelfth President Spencer W. Kimball, is very powerful. From January through March 2012, Bill McKeever and I went through this book chapter by chapter. The end result is that there is no miracle involved (only hard work) and certainly forgiveness is practically impossible to achieve. It is a much different Gospel message than the one given in the Christian church.
You brethren … have had conferred upon you a sacred opportunity, a sacred trust. You have received the blessings of the holy Priesthood. Divine authority has been conferred upon you, and with that authority there has come the responsibility of raising your voice and living your life so that the people of the world may know the difference between the Gospel of Jesus Christ and other organizations of the world.
“Other organizations of the world” will know that divine authority has been given to the Mormon priesthood holders who hold to the true “Gospel of Jesus Christ.” Yes, Mormonism is different than Christianity, and by Smith’s own words, it’s proven.
Wherever you go, keep in mind the fact that you represent him who is the author of our being. The priesthood that you hold is not the priesthood of Joseph Smith, or Brigham Young, or any other men who have been called to leadership of the Church at home or abroad. The priesthood that you hold is the power of God, conferred upon you from on high. Holy beings had to be sent to earth … in order to restore that glorious blessing that had been lost to the earth for hundreds of years. Surely we ought to be grateful for our blessings.
Besides Smith and Cowdery, there were no witnesses to these events. In fact, the date of when Peter, James and John supposedly came to the earth to confer the Melichizedek priesthood upon them is not even known. Does it seem likely that if you were visited by three apostles from above and had the “priesthood” given to you that you wouldn’t record this in your journal or at least write the date down? The very history of this event just doesn’t sound legitimate.
I pray that the Lord will bless us all, that we will be worthy to bear the priesthood that He has offered to us and conferred upon us, that wherever we go people will be able to say, “That man is a servant of the Lord.”
It comes down to this: If there are such things as the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods that men can hold today, then Mormonism could possibly be true. If these priesthoods are not meant for men today, then Mormonism has no authority. If you are a Mormon, do you know for sure that the Mormon Church has authority direct from God?
To read more reviews from the George Albert Smith manual, click here.