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Citations on Priesthood

The following are sections out of Bill McKeever’s book In their Own Words: A Collection of Mormon Quotations. The full book of 400 pages is available at Mormonism Research Ministry or

Standard Works

“No man has a legal right to this office, to hold the keys of this
priesthood, except he be a literal descendant and the firstborn
of Aaron. But, as a high priest of the Melchizedek Priesthood has
authority to officiate in all the lesser offices he may officiate in
the office of bishop when no literal descendant of Aaron can be
found, provided he is called and set apart and ordained unto this
power, under the hands of the First Presidency of the Melchizedek
Priesthood. And a literal descendant of Aaron, also, must be designated
by this Presidency, and found worthy, and anointed, and
ordained under the hands of this Presidency, otherwise they are
not legally authorized to officiate in their priesthood” (Doctrine
and Covenants 68:18-20).

“There are, in the church, two priesthoods, namely, the Melchizedek
and Aaronic, including the Levitical Priesthood” (Doctrine and
Covenants 107:1).

Joseph Smith

“The Priesthood was first given to Adam; he obtained the First
Presidency, and held the keys of it from generation to generation.
He obtained it in the Creation, before the world was formed, as in
Genesis 1:26, 27, 28. He had dominion given him over every living
creature. He is Michael the Archangel, spoken of in the Scriptures”
(Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 157).

“If a man gets a fulness of the priesthood of God, he has to get
it in the same way that Jesus Christ obtained it, and that was by
keeping all the commandments and obeying all the ordinances of
the house of the Lord” (Joseph Smith, History of the Church 5:424).
“The Priesthood is an everlasting principle, and existed with God
from eternity, and will to eternity, without beginning of days or
end of years” (The Contributor, “Sermons and Writings of Joseph
Smith,” November 1881, Vol. 3, No. 2, p. 33).

2nd President Brigham Young

“I have many a time, in this stand, dared the world to produce
as mean devils as we can; we can beat them at anything. We have
the greatest and smoothest liars in the world, the cunningest and
most adroit thieves, and any other shade of character that you can
mention. We can pick out Elders in Israel right here who can beat
the world at gambling, who can handle the cards, cut and shuffle
them with the smartest rogue on the face of God’s foot-stool. I can
produce Elders here who can shave their smartest shavers, and
take their money from them. We can beat the world at any game.
We can beat them, because we have men here that live in the light
of the Lord, that have the Holy Priesthood, and hold the keys of
the kingdom of God. But you may go through all the sectarian
world, and you cannot find a man capable of opening the door of
the kingdom of God to admit others in. We can do that. We can
pray the best, preach the best, and sing the best. We are the best
looking and finest set of people on the face of the earth, and they
may begin any game they please, and we are on hand, and can
beat them at anything they have a mind to begin. They may make
sharp their two-edged swords, and I will turn out the Elders of
Israel with greased feathers, and whip them to death. We are not
to be beat. We expect to be a stumbling block to the whole world,
and a rock of offence to them” (Brigham Young, November 9,
1856, Journal of Discourses 4:77).

“Suppose that eleven of the Twelve had been taken away by the
power of the Adversary, that one Apostle has the same power that
Joseph had, and could preach, baptize, and set in order the whole
kingdom of God upon the earth, as much so as the Twelve, were
they all together. Again: If in the providence of God he should
permit the Enemy to destroy these two first Quorums, and then
destroy the Quorum of Seventy, all but one man, what is his power?
It would be to go and preach, baptize, confirm, lay on hands,
ordain, set in order, build up, and establish the whole kingdom
of God as it is now. Can we go any further? Yes; and I think you
will see the reason of it, and how easy it is to be understood, and
see the propriety of it. I really believe, and it is my doctrine, that
if I speak to the brethren by the power of the Spirit of my calling,
the evidences are commended to those who hear, and the
reasons they see in the spirit of the remarks I make. Suppose the
Enemy had power to destroy all but one of the High Priests from
the face of the earth, what would that one possess in the power
of his Priesthood? He would have power and authority to go and
preach, baptize, confirm, ordain, and set in order the kingdom of
God in all its perfection on the earth. Could he do this without
revelation? No. Could the Seventies? No. Could the Twelve? No.
And we ask, Could Joseph Smith or the First Presidency do this
without revelation? No; not one of them could do such a work
without revelation direct from God. I can go still further. Whoever
is ordained to the office of an Elder to a certain degree possesses
the keys of the Melchisedek Priesthood; and suppose only one Elder
should be left on the earth, could he go and set in order the
kingdom of God? Yes, by revelation” (Brigham Young, Journal of
Discourses 9:88).

4th President Wilford Woodruff

“No man has authority from God to administer to the children of
men the ordinances of life and salvation [except] by the power
of the Holy Priesthood. The power of that Priesthood is with the
Latter-day Saints” (Wilford Woodruff, Teachings of Presidents of the
Church: Wilford Woodruff, 2004, p. 39. Brackets in original).

6th President Joseph F. Smith

“Without that divine priesthood no man could receive or would
receive a remission of sins by being buried in the water. It has to
be by divine authority and without that divine authority our works
would not be acceptable to the Lord, for He will not accept at the
hands of the children of men that which He has not authorized
them to do, which He has not qualified them to do, and called
and appointed them to do; but when God calls men and ordains,
and appoints, and gives them authority to administer in the name
of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, what they
do can not fail to be sanctioned and approved by the author and
giver of the authority. When we receive the priesthood of God,
and we do according to His word, then is He bound, and other-
wise there is no promise” (Joseph F. Smith, Conference Reports, April
1916, pp. 5-6).

“The moment a man says he will not submit to the legally constituted
authority of the Church, whether it be the teachers, the
bishopric, the high council, his quorum, or the First Presidency,
and in his heart confirms it and carries it out, that moment he
cuts himself off from the privileges and blessings of the Priesthood
and Church, and severs himself from the people of God, for he
ignores the authority that the Lord has instituted in his Church”
(Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, 1986, p. 45. See also Teachings of
Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, p. 365).

“No ordinance of the gospel can be performed acceptably to God
or with efficacy to man except by its authority and power, and certainly
there is no ordinance or rite instituted by the Almighty in
the great plan of redemption which is not essential to the salvation
or exaltation of his children. Therefore, where the Melchizedek
or Holy Priesthood does not exist, there can be no true Church
of Christ in its fulness. When this Priesthood is not found among
mankind they are destitute of the power of God, and therefore of
the true science of theology, or the Church and religion of Jesus
Christ who is the great High Priest and Apostle of our salvation”
(Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, 1986, p. 189).

10th 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” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation
3:103. Italics in original).

“There is no exaltation in the kingdom of God without the fulness
of the priesthood. …Every man who is faithful and will receive
these ordinances and blessings obtains a fulness of the priesthood,
and the Lord has said that ‘he makes them equal in power, and
in might, and in dominion’” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of
Salvation 3:132. Ellipsis mine).

“Women do not hold the priesthood, but if they are faithful and true, they
will become priestesses and queens in the kingdom of God, and that implies
that they will be given authority. The women do not hold the priesthood
with their husbands, but they do reap the benefits coming
from that priesthood” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation
3:178. Italics in original).

“Not only was the plan of salvation made known to Adam, and
to Enoch and Noah, before the flood, but they also received the
Priesthood” (Joseph Fielding Smith, The Way to Perfection, p. 59).

“Therefore there were no Levites who accompanied Lehi to the
Western Hemisphere. Under these conditions the Nephites officiated
by virtue of the Melchizedek Priesthood from the days of
Lehi to the days of the appearance of our Savior among them. It
is true that Nephi ‘consecrated Jacob and Joseph’ that they should
be priests and teachers over the land of the Nephites, but the fact
that plural terms priests and teachers were used indicates that this
was not a reference to the definite office in the priesthood in either
case, but it was a general assignment to teach, direct, and
admonish the people” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel
Questions 1:124).

“We are left to accept the fact that Lehi, when he left Jerusalem,
held divine authority and that this divine power was handed down
from generation to generation until the time of the visitation of
the Savior. Moreover, while the detail is lacking, the evidence is
very clear that the Melchizedek Priesthood was possessed by the
Nephites” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions

“While all men hold the priesthood who are ordained to any office,
yet there are special, or directing, authorities, bestowed upon
those who are called to preside. These authorities are called keys.
[Priesthood] keys are the right of presidency; they are the power
and authority to govern and direct all of the Lord’s affairs on
earth. Those who hold them have power to govern and control
the manner in which all others may serve in the priesthood” (Joseph
Fielding Smith, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Fielding
Smith, 2013, p. 153. Brackets in original).

12th President Spencer W. Kimball

“Men require priesthood for exaltation. No man will ever reach
godhood who does not hold the priesthood. You have to be a
member of the higher priesthood – an elder, seventy, or high
priest – and today is the day to get it and magnify it” (Spencer W.
Kimball, The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 51).

“Priesthood is the means to exaltation. The priesthood is the power
and authority of God delegated to man on earth to act in all
things pertaining to the salvation of men. It is the means whereby
the Lord acts through men to save souls. Without this priesthood
power, men are lost. Only through this power does man ‘hold
the keys of all the spiritual blessings of the church,’ enabling him
to receive ‘the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, to have the
heavens opened’ unto him (see D&C 107:18-19), enabling him to
enter the new and everlasting covenant of marriage and to have
his wife and children bound to him in an everlasting tie, enabling
him to become a patriarch to his posterity forever, and enabling
him to receive a fullness of the blessings of the Lord” (Spencer W.
Kimball, The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 494).

“Presumptuous and blasphemous are they who purport to baptize,
bless, marry, or perform other sacraments in the name of the Lord
while in fact lacking his specific authorization. And no one can obtain
God’s authority from reading the Bible or from just a desire
to serve the Lord, no matter how pure his motives” (Spencer W.
Kimball, The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 494).

15th President Gordon B. Hinckley

“Paul wrote concerning the priesthood: ‘No man taketh this honour
unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.’ (Heb.
5:4.) We have not acquired it through purchase or bargain. The
Lord has given it to men who are considered worthy to receive it,
regardless of station in life, the color of their skin, or the nation
in which they live. It is the power and the authority to govern in
the affairs of the kingdom of God. It is given only by ordination by
the laying on of hands by those in authority to do so. The qualification
for eligibility is obedience to the commandments of God”
(Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Cornerstones of Our Faith,” Ensign
(Conference Edition), November 1984, p. 52).

First Presidency

“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” (Charles W. Penrose, Conference Reports, April 1921, p. 198).


“We may aspire to be equal with him [God], and that is not robbery.
Yes, Jesus, who found himself in the form of God, though it
not robbery to become equal with him. How can that be? I ask if
any son robs his father if he grows up to become equal with him;
attains to all the perfections of his father; attains to all knowledge,
all wisdom, all understanding, all power, and performs as great
works as his father performed? Did he rob his father of anything?
Has his father lost anything because the son has attained to the
same greatness, glory and perfection? No! The Scriptures tell us
that God, in bestowing blessings, loses nothing. In giving it does
not impoverish him, and in withholding it does not enrich him.
He can impart light, truth, knowledge, power, wisdom, understanding,
ability, lift up and exalt his creatures, and make them
like unto himself, and instead of losing anything he is greatly enriching
himself. He is enlarging and extending his dominions, he
is multiplying his kingdoms, and his offsprings, over which he is
extending his benign influence, and blessings, and glory, and honor,
for ever and ever. Then, says the Apostle Paul, Why your narrow-mindedness,
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ,
who, finding himself in the form of God, thought it not robbery to
become equal with him, growing up unto Christ, our living head,
and that is the object of the organization of the Priesthood on the
earth, and the classification, and organization of the Church of
Christ upon the earth” (Erastus Snow, March 3, 1878, Journal of
Discourses 19:278. Brackets mine).

“We read about two priesthoods in the Bible; one was called, the
‘higher priesthood’ the priesthood after the order of Melchizedek;
the other was called, the ‘lesser priesthood,’ or the priesthood
after the order of Aaron, the Levitical priesthood, some
would term it” (Orson Pratt, March 9, 1879, Journal of Discourses

“It is said that without the Melchisedek Priesthood no man can
look upon the face of God and live. And yet, Joseph Smith, when
a boy of fourteen years, gazed upon the Father and the Son, and
it was nine years before he held the Priesthood in the flesh. I once
asked President Lorenzo Snow concerning this matter: ‘Why is it,
if a man without the Melchisedek Priesthood cannot look upon
God’s face and live, that Joseph Smith could see the Father and
the Son, and live, when he held no priesthood at all?’ President
Snow replied: ‘Joseph did hold the priesthood; he came with it
into the world.’ I believed it before he said it, but I wanted him to
say it first. Joseph Smith, as much as any Prophet that ever lived,
was ordained a prophet before he came into this mortal life. He
held the Melchisedek priesthood in the spirit, when he came here,
or he could never have received what he did from God. And these
men who have followed in his footsteps are spirits of the same
class. The Prophet Joseph declared that every man who has a calling
to minister to the inhabitants of this earth, was ordained to
that very purpose before the world was” (Orson F. Whitney, Conference
Reports, October 1905, p. 93).

“The Latter-day Saints do not do things because they happen to
be printed in a book. They do not do things because God told
the Jews to do them; nor do they do or leave undone anything
because of instructions that Christ gave to the Nephites. Whatever
is done by this Church is because God, speaking from heaven in
our day, has commanded this Church to do it. No book presides
over this Church and no book lies at its foundation. You cannot
pile up books enough to take the place of God’s priesthood, inspired
by the power of the Holy Ghost. That is the constitution
of the Church of Christ. If we use water instead of wine in the
sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, it is because Christ has so commanded.
Divine revelation adapts itself to the circumstances and
conditions of men, and change upon change ensues as God’s progressive
work goes on to its destiny. There is no book big enough
or good enough to preside over this Church” (Orson F. Whitney,
Conference Reports, October, 1916, p. 55. See also Teachings of the Living
Prophets, 1982, p. 20).

“If I understand the plan of exaltation correctly, all eternal blessings
are obtained by and through the Holy Priesthood of God.
They cannot be obtained in any other way. That being true, then,
the Holy Priesthood, which is God’s authority and sealing power, is
not only of great importance to the man who possesses it, but also
to his wife and children, for they cannot enjoy in full measure the
blessings, opportunities, and privileges of the gospel unless the
husband and father worthily honors and faithfully and righteously
functions in his sacred priesthood calling” (Delbert L. Stapley,
Conference Reports, April 1957, p. 75).

“Every elder in the Church holds the same priesthood as the President
of the Church” (Russell M. Nelson, “Honoring the Priesthood,”
Ensign (Conference Edition), May 1993, p. 40).

“The First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve are modern-day
Apostles of the Lord, Jesus Christ. Under the direction of
these prophets, seers, and revelators, who hold the keys in this dispensation,
priesthood holders today have the legitimate right to
act in the name of God” (Robert D. Hales, “Blessings of the Priesthood,”
Ensign (Conference Edition), November 1995, p. 33).

“In the preexistence, our decision to follow the Lord was all-or-nothing.
Following that pattern through our mortal probation will
get each of us back to our Heavenly Father. Now is the time to use
our time properly. ‘This life is the time for men to prepare to meet
God.’I testify that your time on earth will be sufficient if you learn
to use it wisely in your youth. ‘O, remember, my son, and learn
wisdom in thy youth; yea, learn in thy youth to keep the commandments
of God.’” (Robert D. Hales, “To the Aaronic Priesthood:
Preparing for the Decade of Decision,” Ensign (Conference Edition),
May 2007, p. 50).

“The priesthood is the authority to act in the name of God. That
authority is essential to the fulfillment of His work on earth. The
priesthood we hold is a delegated portion of the eternal authority
of God. As we are true and faithful, our ordination to the priesthood
will be eternal. However, the conferring of authority alone
does not of itself bestow the power of the office. The extent to
which we can exercise the power of the priesthood depends upon
personal worthiness, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and obedience
to His commandments” (Richard G. Scott, “Honor the Priesthood
and Use It Well,” Ensign (Conference Edition), November 2008,
p. 44).

“We are not accustomed to speaking of women having the authority
of the priesthood in their Church callings, but what other authority
can it be? When a woman—young or old—is set apart to
preach the gospel as a full-time missionary, she is given priesthood
authority to perform a priesthood function. The same is true
when a woman is set apart to function as an officer in a Church
organization under the direction of one who holds the keys of
the priesthood. Whoever functions in an office or calling received
from one who holds priesthood keys exercises priesthood authority
to performing her or his assigned duties” (Dallin H. Oaks, Ensign
(Conference Edition), May 2014, p. 51).


“Restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood. – The promise to
confer upon Joseph and Oliver the Melchizedek Priesthood was
fulfilled; but as there is no definite account of the event in the
history of the Prophet Joseph, or, for matter of that, in any of our
annals, the evidences of the fact of their ordination to the higher
or Melchizedek Priesthood promised them by John the Baptist are
presented now, together with a consideration of the place where,
and the time when the great event occurred” (B.H. Roberts, History
of the Church 1:40).

“In the first two verses of the twelfth chapter, under the figure of
a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and
about her head a crown of twelve stars, and ready to be delivered
of a child, John describes the church presided over by the apostles,
and ready to bring forth the complete organization of the priesthood—the
male child that is to rule the nations. In the third and
fourth verses, under the figure of a great red dragon, whose tail
drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and who stood before
the woman to devour her child as soon as it was born—we have a
description of Lucifer standing ready to destroy the priesthood so
soon as it should be brought forth. In verses five and six, under
the figure of the woman bringing forth the male child, the child
being caught up into heaven, and the flight of the woman into the
wilderness, where God has a place prepared for her, where she is
nourished for a thousand two hundred and three score days—we
have a description of the coming forth of the priesthood as an organization,
its being taken up into heaven out of reach of Lucifer,
and also the flight of the church beyond his power into the wilderness,
where it is nourished for a certain time” (B. H. Roberts, New
Witnesses for God 1:155-156).

“Since the Lord appeared unto Cain and conversed with him
many times before Cain killed Abel, Cain must have held the
Priesthood. God said unto Cain, ‘For from this time forth thou
shalt be the father of his [Satan’s] lies; thou shalt be called Perdition;
and the Lord cursed Cain with severe cursings. One of these
cursings was a mark placed upon Cain, which mark would be carried
by his posterity throughout all generations. According to the
teachings of the Pearl of Great Price, this mark was a black skin”
(Milton R. Hunter, Pearl of Great Price Commentary, pp. 140-141.
Brackets in original).

Church Manuals

“A woman can receive the blessings of the Melchizedek Priesthood
by receiving the ordinances of the gospel and by being married
to a righteous priesthood holder. The blessings that come
into a home when a man magnifies his priesthood affect his wife as
much as they affect him. Perhaps the most important way a woman
participates in the blessings of the priesthood is by receiving her
endowment and being married in the temple” (Duties and Blessings
of the Priesthood: Basic Manual for Priesthood Holders, Part B, 2000,
pp. 31-33).

“Having the priesthood is a great blessing. The priesthood is a
sacred authority. Only those male members who are true followers
of Jesus and are working earnestly to keep His commandments
are permitted to have the priesthood” (Gospel Fundamentals, 2002,
p. 89).

“Male members of the Church may begin their priesthood service
when they reach the age of 12. They begin by holding the Aaronic
Priesthood, and they later may qualify to have the Melchizedek
Priesthood conferred on them. At different stages in their lives
and as they prepare themselves to receive different responsibilities,
they hold different offices in the priesthood, such as deacon,
teacher, or priest in the Aaronic Priesthood and elder or high
priest in the Melchizedek Priesthood” (True to the Faith: A Gospel
Reference, 2004, p. 124).

“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
temple 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)” (Gospel
Principles, 2009, p. 67).

“Members who have undergone an elective transsexual operation
may not receive the priesthood” (Handbook 1: Stake Presidents and
Bishops, 2010, p. 148).

Other Sources

“As the first on this earth to receive priesthood keys, Adam continues
to dispense authority to others and to watch over priesthood
administration on the earth; those to whom keys have been given
must return them or account for them to Adam, and he will in
turn deliver them or give an accounting of them to Christ. This
will occur when the Ancient of Days (Adam) attends a council at
Adam-ondi-Ahman preliminary to the second coming of Christ”
(Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 1:16).

“The priesthood is the eternal power and authority of God,
through which He created the heavens and the earth and by which
He governs the same. It is used to redeem and eventually exalt His
children. As given in mortality, the priesthood is the power and
authority to act in God’s name. By and through it, one is authorized
to preach the gospel, administer the ordinances and govern
in the Church” (“Priesthood Authority,” Church News, November
10, 2007, p. 16).

“Explanations about how Joseph Smith could have seen God before
being ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood or having received
its ordinances have been varied. Early Mormon brethren
who confronted this issue concluded that Joseph did hold the
priesthood having, in some sense, brought with him from the preexistence…According
to Joseph Fielding Smith, since the priesthood
wasn’t yet on the earth, young Joseph was exempt from this
requirement” (BYU Professor Charles R. Harrell, ‘This is My Doctrine:’
The Development of Mormon Theology, p. 146, footnote 65).

“The grand implication associated with the idea of the premortal
operation of the Atonement, and an uncomfortable one to some,
is that sins were committed and mistakes were made in premortality”
(BYU Professor Andrew C. Skinner, “The Premortal Godhood
of Christ: A Restoration Perspective,” Jesus Christ: Son of God, Savior,
ed. Paul H. Peterson, Gary L. Hatch, and Laura D. Card, p. 71).

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