Chapter 17: Priesthood—“for the Salvation of the Human Family”

During 2013, LDS members will be studying the latest manual published by their church, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow. 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.


Teachings of Lorenzo Snow

Priesthood bearers are messengers of the Almighty, with authority delegated from heaven to administer holy ordinances.

We, the Latter-day Saints, profess to have received from God the fulness of the everlasting gospel; we profess to be in possession of the holy Priesthood—the delegated authority of God to man, by virtue of which we administer in its ordinances acceptably to him.

According to Mormonism, priesthood authority from God left the earth soon after the death of Jesus’ apostles. ‘“. . . with the death of the Apostles, priesthood keys and the presiding priesthood authority were taken from the earth. . . . Priesthood keys provided the authority to govern the work of the priesthood. Without apostles, priesthood, and priesthood keys, much of the true knowledge of God was lost and the doctrine of the gospel was distorted. No ordinances required for salvation, such as baptism, could be properly performed.(Joshua J. Parley, “Power in the Priesthood Restored,” Ensign, June 2012, pp. 28-29). 

Joseph Smith claimed to have restored this priesthood authority shortly before he founded his church on April 6, 1830. According to President Joseph Fielding Smith, “‘ALL PRIESTHOOD IS MELCHIZEDEK.’ How many priesthoods are there? The answer is there is one priesthood, but the Lord divided it into two divisions known as the Melchizedek and the Aaronic Priesthood” (Doctrines of Salvation 3:103).  Joseph Smith and his friend Oliver Cowdery claimed to have been baptized on May 15, 1829, in the Susquehanna River by a resurrected John the Baptist, who bestowed the lesser “Aaronic Priesthood” on them. On a later date that wasn’t recorded, the two were purportedly visited by the biblical apostles Peter, James, and John and given the greater “Melchizedek Priesthood.”

Today Mormons believe that these priesthoods are given to worthy male members of the church and provide them with “priesthood power” to marry, baptize, and even bless with God’s approval. The Aaronic priesthood, which is given to Mormon boys at the age of twelve, allows them to administer the sacrament. The Melchizedek priesthood is given to males eighteen years or older. It bestows on them the office of “elder” and, among other things, allows them to confer the gift of the Holy Ghost and to provide blessings by the laying on of hands.

Any man who will humble himself before God and will be immersed in water, after repentance, for the remission of his sins, shall receive, through the laying on of hands, the gift of the Holy Ghost. Can I give this to him? No, I, simply as a messenger of the Almighty to whom has been delegated authority, administer immersion for the remission of sins; I simply immerse him in water, having authority so to do. I simply lay my hands upon him for the reception of the Holy Ghost, then God, from his presence, acknowledges my authority, acknowledges that I am his messenger, and confers the Holy Ghost upon the individual.

For more on the issue of baptism, please see here.

When [I have] baptiz[ed] people and administer[ed] the ordinances of this holy priesthood, God has confirmed those administrations by imparting the Holy Ghost, giving a knowledge to the individuals to whom I administered, convincing them that the authority was delegated from heaven. And every Elder who has gone forth to preach this everlasting Gospel, and acted in the spirit of his calling, can bear the same testimony, that through their administrations in these holy ordinances the glory and power of God has been made manifest in a convincing manner upon the heads of those to whom they have administered. This is our testimony; this was the testimony [in 1830] of a certain individual who stood forth and claimed that God had authorized him to baptize people for the remission of sins, and lay hands upon them for the reception of the Holy Ghost, which should impart unto them a knowledge from the eternal worlds that he had this authority. This person was Joseph Smith; and he conferred this authority, which was given unto him by holy angels, upon others who were sent forth to bear testimony to the world that those who would receive those holy ordinances, should receive the testimony from the Almighty that they were thus authorized to so administer. And this is our testimony; and this is my testimony before this people and before the world.

The whole Mormon religion centers on the person of Joseph Smith, Jr.  Joseph Smith is certainly elevated in Mormonism.  It is Joseph Smith who declared, “I have more to boast of than ever any man had. I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam. A large majority of the whole have stood by me. Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such a work as I. The followers of Jesus ran away from Him; but the Latter-day Saints never ran away from me yet” (History of the Church 6:408-409). This is quite a statement, especially since it was just days after that Joseph Smith was killed by the mob at the Carthage Jail.

Second LDS President Brigham Young said, “Whosoever confesseth that Joseph Smith was sent of God to re­veal the holy Gospel to the children of men, and lay the founda­tion for gathering Israel, and building up the Kingdom of God on the earth, that spirit is of God, and every spirit that does not con­fess that God has sent Joseph Smith, and revealed the everlasting Gospel to and through him, is of Antichrist, no matter whether it is found in a pulpit or on a throne” (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 435). Apostle Bruce R. McConkie stated, “If it had not been for Joseph Smith and the restoration, there would be no salvation” (Mormon Doctrine, p. 670).

I agree with tenth LDS President Joseph Fielding Smith when he said, “Mormonism, as it is called, must stand or fall on the story of Joseph Smith. He was either a prophet of God, divinely called, properly appointed and commissioned, or he was one of the biggest frauds this world has ever seen. There is no middle ground” (Doctrines of Salvation 1:188).

Every Mormon must determine: if Smith is worthy to be trusted. Should a person place their eternal destiny with im? Was his “revelation” (and practice) of polygamy something ordained by God? Did his view on the nature of God coincide with biblical teaching? An objective look at Smith’s life shows he’s not the man that the Mormon Church makes him out to be; if he’s not a prophet, he’s a charlatan and should be completely rejected.

Where in all the world can you find a class of ministers that dare take the position our Elders do? Where is the man or the set of men that can be found that dare to present themselves before the world and say that they have been authorized of God to administer certain ordinances to the people through which they may receive revelation from God? Any one announcing a doctrine of this kind would soon be found out if he was an impostor—he would place himself in a very dangerous position, and would soon be discovered if he held no such authority. Our Elders, however, dare take this position. … God has sent his holy angels from heaven and restored the authority to man to administer the ordinance[s] of the gospel.

Latter-day Saint leaders have said that the priesthood provides their people authority from God, differentiating Mormons from Christians. President George Albert Smith wrote, “The churches of the world are trying, in their way, to bring peace into the hearts of men. They are possessed of many virtues and many truths, and accomplish much good, but they are not divinely authorized. Neither have their priests been divinely commissioned” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: George Albert Smith, pp. 124-25).

According to Apostle Bruce R. McConkie, “As far as all religious organizations now existing are concerned, the presence or the absence of this [Melchizedek] priesthood establishes the divinity or falsity of a professing church” (Mormon Doctrine, p. 479). And Apostle Packer explained, “We do not hear of the priesthood keys being exercised in other Christian churches. It seems odd that we are described by some as being non-Christian when we are the only ones who have the authority and the organization that He established” (“The Honor and Order of the Priesthood,” Ensign, June 2012, p. 24).

The priesthood helps us find happiness in this life and throughout eternity.

The Priesthood has been restored; it has been bestowed upon man that through that medium, all who would like to be good and happy, might have the privilege. The gospel tells us how to be great, good and happy. The spirit of the gospel of Christ teaches all things that are necessary for our present and future welfare.

We have these objects in view today, and we should continually keep them before us. Look back for twenty-five years, or look back ten years only, and a great many have been in the church that length of time, and see what we have accomplished. We see farther and comprehend things better, hence we are better prepared for the things that are coming on the earth than we were ten, fifteen, twenty or twenty-five years ago to know how to be useful, to know how to do things as they should be done. …

… The object of the priesthood is to make all [people] happy, to diffuse information, to make all partakers of the same blessings in their turn.

For this very purpose the Holy Priesthood has been bestowed in this our day, to guide and perfect the saints of God here, and just in proportion as we attain to intelligence in this world and to integrity and faithfulness … , so will be the exalted condition in which we shall appear behind the veil.

The Lord has said that He will give us all that He hath—and this according to the oath and covenant which belongs to the Priesthood [see D&C 84:33–44]. Nobody ought to doubt what Jesus says, and He declares, as recorded in the Revelations of St. John, “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in His throne.” [Revelation 3:21.] Can anything be said greater than that? Does not that comprehend everything?

This gospel we have received has been revealed from heaven, and the priesthood we hold has been revealed for the salvation of the human family. We must be lively in our minds in reference to it.

What some who are unfamiliar with Mormonism may not understand is that the LDS priesthood is denied to females. Left to herself, a Mormon female has no authority of her own. Charles Penrose, who was a member of the First Presidency, made this interesting observation:

“When a woman is sealed to a man holding the Priesthood, she becomes one with him. Sometimes the man is the one and sometimes he is not, but she receives blessings in association with him. The glory and power and dominion that he will exercise when he has the fulness of the Priesthood and becomes a ‘king and a priest unto God,’ she will share with him. Sisters have said to me sometimes, ‘But, I hold the Priesthood with my husband.’ ‘Well,’ I asked, ‘what office do you hold in the Priesthood?’ Then they could not say much more. The sisters are not ordained to any office in the Priesthood and there is authority in the Church which they cannot exercise; it does not belong to them; they cannot do that properly any more than they can change themselves into a man. Now, sisters, do not take the idea that I wish to convey that you have no blessings or authority or power belonging to the Priesthood. When you are sealed to a man of God who holds it and who, by overcoming, inherits the fulness of the glory of God, you will share that with him if you are fit for it, and I guess you will be” (Conference Reports, April 1921, p. 108).

According to Penrose, a husband who holds the priesthood has the power to raise his wife on the resurrection day.

“In the divine economy, as in nature, the man ‘is the head of the woman,’ and it is written that ‘he is the savior of the body.”’But ‘the man is not without the woman’ any more than the woman is without the man, in the Lord. Adam was first formed, then Eve. In the resurrection they stand side by side and hold dominion together. Every man who overcomes all things and is thereby entitled to inherit all things, receives power to bring up his wife to join him in the possession and enjoyment thereof” (Penrose, Mormon Doctrine, Plain and Simple, p. 51).

This sounds very similar to what Apostle Erastus Snow said in 1857:

“Do you uphold your husband before God as our lord? ‘What!—my husband to be my lord?’ I ask, Can you get into the celestial kingdom without him? Have any of you been there? You will remember that you never got into the celestial kingdom without the aid of your husband. If you did, it was because your husband was away, and some one had to act proxy for him. No woman will get into the celestial kingdom, except her husband receives her, if she is worthy to have a husband; and if not, somebody will receive her as a Servant” (Journal of Discourses 5:291).

The idea that women need a man by their side to enter the very best God has in store for His people is not a biblical idea.

My young brethren, when things go against you, when everything seems black, do your duty and you will become strong men, powerful men; the sick will be healed under your ministrations; devils will flee from you; the dead will rise; and everything that was ever done by man since the days of Adam, you will be able to do through the power of God and through a proper ambition.

Purity, virtue, fidelity, godliness must be sought ambitiously, or the crown cannot be won. Those principles must be incorporated with[in] ourselves, woven into our constitutions, becoming a part of us, making us a centre, a fountain of truth, of equity, justice, and mercy, of all that is good and great, that from us may proceed the light, the life, the power, and the law to direct, to govern and assist to save a wandering world; acting as the sons of God, for and in behalf of our Father in heaven. We expect in the resurrection to exercise the powers of our priesthood—we can exercise them only in proportion as we secure its righteousness and perfections; these qualifications can be had only as they are sought and obtained, so that in the morning of the resurrection we will possess those acquisitions only which we secured in this world! Godliness cannot be conferred but must be acquired, a fact of which the religious world seem[s] strangely and lamentably unconscious. Seek to benefit others, and others will seek to benefit you; and he that would be great, let him be good, studying the interests of the whole, becoming the servant of all.

As Saints of God, Elders of Israel, we should be willing to devote time and labor, making every necessary sacrifice in order to obtain the proper spiritual qualifications to be highly useful in our several callings. And may the Lord inspire every heart with the importance of these matters that we may seek diligently and energetically for the gifts and powers promised in the Gospel we have obeyed.

According to Snow and the LDS leadership that put this manual together, the priesthood that worthy males have received is their marching orders to strain for perfection. We have made it perfectly clear in a previous chapter that, while an admirable goal, attaining God’s standards is not even possible. See here.

The New Testament does not support the idea that the Aaronic or Melichizedek priesthoods are necessary for humans; instead, Christians have authority as “children of God” through their belief. Contrasting Christians with the rest of the “world” (who “knew him [God] not”), 1 John 3:1 says, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are” (esv). Paul distinguished between “children of the flesh” and “children of God” in Romans 9:8. Galatians 3:26 says it is “by faith in Christ Jesus” that believers become children of God, while John 1:12 says that “as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (D&C 11:30 and 35:2 both quote John 1:12). 

A royal priesthood is provided to all Christian believers. First Peter 2:9–10 states that Christians “are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people . . . [who] now have obtained mercy.” Even though Christians are priests in this spiritual manner, they are called to offer themselves as “living sacrifice[s]” to God (Rom. 12:1). As holders of this priesthood, believers are commanded to stand and intercede for people, not to offer blood sacrifices for the cleansing of their sins but to pray that they might turn to the one who cleanses from sin, namely, Christ Jesus. While Mormonism offers the priesthood only to males, the New Testament makes no such distinction when it comes to those whom God has called to Himself. This authority is available to all believers, regardless of gender. Paul wrote in Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” It is this priesthood, held by all Christians, that provides authority to pray directly to the God of this universe, to boldly proclaim the gospel truth wherever they go, and to know that when they die they will enjoy eternal life with God. There is no greater authority than this.


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