Priesthood and Baptism Questions

I’ve been asked in several emails if the recent post titled “Priesthood and Baptism” means I’m advocating changes to the criteria for baptism. At first I thought the inquiries were unnecessary. But now I think I should clarify:

That recent post included the following introduction: “I answered an email from someone who has read the things I have written about priesthood, including the Elijah materials. He was asking about priesthood held by LDS men who were not in a position of leadership, and inquiring whether LDS missionaries could still offer acceptable baptism. Those who have read what I have written will understand the question and my response.”

I thought it would be clear because when I refer to “what I have written” TWICE in the introduction, I wrongly assumed everyone reading that would understand it means what was said before still mattered. The answer was clarifying that a fully conforming missionary could qualify, and would not be disqualified merely by reason of serving an LDS mission at the time they baptized.  It should not be required to rehearse every detail related to every topic every time a simple issue is raised by a question.

I hope this answers these additional inquiries and helps to point out how to read a post.

Priesthood and Baptism

I answered an email from someone who has read the things I have written about priesthood, including the Elijah materials. He was asking about priesthood held by LDS men who were not in a position of leadership, and inquiring whether LDS missionaries could still offer acceptable baptism. Those who have read what I have written will understand the question and my response.

I responded as follows:

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In the beginning there was only one, unified priesthood. This is why Joseph commented “all priesthood is Melchizedek, but there are different degrees of it.” (I’m paraphrasing his statement.)

If, therefore, any person has been ordained to any portion of priesthood, they have received in part the original, unified priesthood.

In the end of the world the same priesthood which was in the beginning is to return. Adam prophesied this and Enoch recorded Adam’s prophecy. (Moses 6:7.)  It returns when God’s voice confers it upon a man. (JST Gen. 14:29.) Therefore if a man holds some degree of it, and God confers the rest by His voice from heaven, the ordination is completed and the same priesthood which was in the beginning of the world returns.

The LDS Church is not led by men authorized to offer baptism, but it includes many men who could offer baptism. But the form of baptism is strictly prescribed by the Lord in 3 Ne. 11. He explains His doctrine and then directs that anything more or less than this cometh of evil.

The missionaries are required to compel a confession from prospective converts before baptism that they acknowledge Thomas S. Monson as a prophet. This is in Preach My Gospel. It is the second question asked in the baptismal interview. As long as a missionary conforms to the Lord’s direction in 3 Ne. 11, I see no reason why their baptism would not be acceptable to the Lord. But if they follow the direction in Preach My Gospel, then the baptism would need to be redone. Not because of a lack of authority, but because the ordinance has been corrupted.

God’s Oath for Melchizedek Priesthood

There are two variations in the scriptures of the same concept regarding the Melchizedek Priesthood. One in the New Testament and the other in 1832.

From the New Testament, Hebrews 7:12-21:

For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law. For he of whom these things are spoken pertaineth to another tribe, of which no man gave attendance at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Juda; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood. And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchisedec there ariseth another priest, Who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life. For he testifieth, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. For there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof. For the law was administered without an oath and made nothing perfect, but was only the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God. And inasmuch as this high priest was not without an oath, by so much was Jesus made the surety of a better testament. he was made priest: (For those priests were made without an oath; but this with an oath by him that said unto him, The Lord sware and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec:)

(In addition to the emphasis of bold and underlines, I have shown the JST changes to this text in red lettering and cross-out.)

The reference in Hebrews to the Lord swearing the oath to confer this priesthood is a quote from Psalms 110:4: “The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.” It is part of a Messianic Psalm and describes Christ.

Then in 1832, D&C 84:33-40:

For whoso is faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods of which I have spoken, and the magnifying their calling, are sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies. They become the sons of Moses and of Aaron and the seed of Abraham, and the church and kingdom, and the elect of God. And also all they who receive this priesthood receive me, saith the Lord; For he that receiveth my servants receiveth me; And he that receiveth me receiveth my Father; And he that receiveth my Father receiveth my Father’s kingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him. And this is according to the oath and covenant which belongeth to the priesthood. Therefore, all those who receive the priesthood, receive this oath and covenant of my Father, which he cannot break, neither can it be moved.

In both cases the “oath” is God’s. God is the one who confirms upon the recipient this priesthood and makes him to be His priest. When God makes this oath it is after the recipient has been so thoroughly proven that God “will not repent” and remove the authority given to the recipient.

Those who receive it likewise “receive” Christ, because they know Him and have stood in His presence. After receiving Him, Christ then brings them to the Father and the Father likewise “receives” the recipient. The Father is the one who then swears to the recipient that “all He [the Father] has shall be given to the recipient” because this is God’s oath to those few mortals who ever receive this priesthood. They are on a course which will lead them to become like His Son and like Himself.

Some men imagine this happens when a young man gets approval by a local congregation and some quorum leader “confers” this priesthood. That is fanciful imagination. The reality is that this is a very rare event, happening infrequently in mankind’s temporal history. God has made provision to deal with the frequent absence of this authority among men by having some linger here, as John the Beloved has agreed to do.

Christ serves as the model for these recipients, and He is the one who best exemplifies the kind of man to whom God the Father would declare, “Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.”

Vanity is a poor substitute for redemption. As Joseph Smith put it, “How much more dignified and noble are the thoughts of God, than the vain imaginations of the human heart!” When men get a little authority, as they suppose (or in other words, as they imagine), they begin to abuse one another.

Those God trusts are like Moses, who “was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.” (Num. 12:3.) This is why the 1832 revelation calls the recipients “the sons of Moses.” (D&C 84:34.)

When pretenders exercise control, dominion and compulsion over one another it discourages the hearts of those who seek for God. The poor example makes everyone wary of the idea of “authority” given by God. Remember the Great Example of the Great High Priest, Christ. He knelt and washed others’ feet. He did not seek out the chief seats. He was cast out and associated with the least, proclaiming that it was they who were favored by God. He was despised and rejected because He held no position, rank or authority in the social order of His day. He called the presiding authorities of His time hypocrites, whited sepulchers filled with death and decay.

Christ came to serve, not to rule and reign with violence and intimidation. HE is the model of what real authority looks like. Real authority elevates others. It kneels to serve. It has others’ best interests in mind to the point of sacrificing everything to serve and save others. It is impossible to imagine Christ escorting the self-important into God the Father’s presence to have him given authority. The stink of such a man’s death and decay would contaminate the halls of heaven.

It is almost always the case that non-scriptural, anti-Christ ideas are likely to be rejected–until it is the “doctrine” or “dogma” of an institution. Then, because of mankind’s insecurities, falsehoods get propped up beyond all criticism because of the influence the institution holds in this world. It is the worldliness of the lie that makes it so appealing, so reassuring. Lies enjoy success which are so very unlike the example of the itinerate preacher Jesus, who submitted to others, paid the temple priests, paid taxes to Caesar, was cast out of the synagogues– and who founded the religion now profaned by wealthy men saying, but not doing, as He commanded.

Received of His Fullness, Part 3

The often quoted verses in Section 84 have an objective event that is consistently ignored. It is not merely “the ordinances” of the priesthood which are of value. The “power of godliness” (D&C 84: 20) is inseperably connected with these ordinances. (D&C 121: 36.) Without the “power of godliness” our rites are much like the apostate world Christ condemned in His initial visit with Joseph. (JS-H 1: 19.)

D&C 84: 20-22 tells us about:
-Power of Godliness
-Authority of the Priesthood
-Seeing the face of God the Father

These verses do not vindicate ordinances as an end in themselves. Far from it. Instead, they commend us to reach upward. If the ordinances alone were enough, there would be no mention of “power of godliness” and “authority of the priesthood” and “seeing the face of God, even the Father.” Therefore, how ought you to view the ordinances? If they have value, what value do they have? Why do we want or need them? What should they inspire within us?

Where and how did Joseph and Sidney “receive of His fullness?” (D&C 76: 20.)

Why, in speaking of “the power of godliness” and “the authority of the priesthood,” does it then connect with “seeing the face of God, even the Father?” (D&C 84: 22.)

Why, in the “oath and covenant of the priesthood” (as we have taken to identifying it), does it mention “receiving Christ?” (D&C 84: 36.) Is this to be taken as descriptive of receiving the priesthood, or as merely some future vague promise for the afterlife? If you read it as the afterlife, where do you find support for that reading in the revelation? Is that reading consistent with mortals having priesthood? If the priesthood is gained in mortality, why then is “receiving Christ” only post-mortality? Or, does the priesthood then become post-mortal as well?

Why does the Lord say if we “receive Him” we will also “receive His Father?” (D&C 84: 37-38.) How is coming into Christ’s presence related to coming into the Father’s presence? Are these connected? How? And how does this connect with “priesthood” since that is the topic of the revelation? Is the priesthood proprietary, meaning that it belongs like a franchise to some group, institution or individuals? Or is the priesthood instead best viewed as a relationship between God and man? If a relationship between God and man, then is it based on trust? Personal trust between God and the specific man? If that is the case, what is required to receive priesthood?

Who are His “servants” He requires you to “receive?” (D&C 84: 36.) How would such a servant aid you in coming to God and receiving priesthood? What is the relationship between receiving a servant, then receiving Christ, then receiving the Father? How is Joseph Smith an example of this?

Does the statement given in 1835 in D&C 107: 1 describe the condition of the church at that time? Or, does it describe a continuing presence of priesthood forever thereafter? Can priesthood be lost? (D&C 121: 37.)

Do you have His fullness? Why not? How do the scriptures say you receive it?

Is this what Nephi said he did in his record? Why does he walk us through his own experience? Is he bragging, or is he instructing and inviting us to do likewise?

Are ordinances enough? Do they testify to an underlying truth? Why receive the testimony of the ordinances and ignore the underlying truth?

No matter what we have received, retained or discarded from Joseph Smith, doesn’t his entire ministry come down to affirming James 1: 5? Can you ask of God also? Will He not “give liberally” to you? Then it is not lack of faith in Joseph’s ministry or your personal lack of keys held by those in higher priesthood offices that keeps you apart from God. Instead it is your unwillingness to do as James instructs, and your failure to ask God in faith.

Moroni told Joseph that Joel had not yet been fulfilled, but would be soon. He linked this to the “fulness of the Gentiles” which signals their end. (JS-H 1: 41; see also Joel 2: 28-32.) Is that time upon us?

Is the reason so few are “chosen” even though many are “called” related to this very subject? (D&C 121: 34.) Would you be better off trying to please God rather than getting noticed by other men?

Does it occur to you that this process in these revelations is the fullness of the Gospel in action? That the fullness of the Father, as well as the fullness of the priesthood, are part of the relationship which you are required to develop with God? Directly between you and Him, and not between you and someone else? If this is so, then what light is shed when the open vision given to Joseph and Sidney where the past rebellion of an angel in a position of authority is revealed, and the future final destiny of man is shown to them? Why is a man saved no faster than he gains knowledge? (TPJS, p. 217.)

Why did Joseph comment on the vision (in Section 76) by stating: “I could explain a hundred fold more than I ever have of the glories of the kingdoms manifested to me in the vision, were I permitted, and were the people prepared to receive them.” (TPJS, p. 304.)

An Aside about Alma

In response to a question about re-baptism and power to perform the ordinance, I would add the following:
Alma was one of the priests of King Noah. In hindsight he knew what he did among them was wicked. (Mosiah 23: 9.) It was in the position as a priest in King Noah’s court that Alma received his priesthood authority. (Mosiah 11: 5.) Unlike his peers, Alma was converted by the message of Abinadi, and was moved to repentance. (Mosiah 17: 1-2.) When he repented, he received from God authority to proceed in using his priesthood. (Mosiah 18: 18.) The moment Alma’s authority was conferred came after he repented, preached righteousness, asked if others were willing to receive baptism, and proceeded to perform the ordinance. It was at that moment Alma received power through the Spirit. (Mosiah 18: 10-14.)

This pattern is in scripture for a reason. It is intended to be a guide for us as we ask questions such as: Although the priesthood has been conferred upon me, what must I do to obtain power? (D&C 121: 36-37.) It is almost always the case that the priesthood is merely “conferred,” and there is no power within it. Through repentance, the powers of heaven are accessed and the priesthood’s power becomes real. Alma is a prime example of this transition from powerless and error-filled pride into repentance and possession of the Spirit of God.

Alma 13:4


“And thus they have been called to this holy calling on account of their faith, while others would reject the Spirit of God on account of the hardness of their hearts and blindness of their minds, while, if it had not been for this they might have had as great privilege as their brethren.” 

The result of what went on before is the reason for the ordination or calling.  That is, “thus they have been called.”  Meaning that all of what went into the earlier experiences i.e., being left to choose between good and evil, and having chosen good, having “faith” and good works, is the reason for their ordination. These souls are not novices. They are not getting authority here for the first time. They come with power from beyond this earth, bringing it with them to this earth. They qualified before and elsewhere.  

All of this is “on account of their faith.” All things are obtained through faith. That is explained in the Sixth Lecture, quoted here.  Faith is a principle of power. It is capable of making things happen. There must be a connection between faith and power; between faith and priesthood. 

Others reject the Spirit of God and, therefore, do not have this power.  These others may claim to have authority, but they do not really receive power from the Spirit of God.  They are animated by a different source.  

What, then, causes someone who has a little authority “as they suppose” (they don’t really have it, you see), to attempt to use that pretense to control and dominate others?  The answer is contained in revelations already in print. It is their pride, their insecurities, the need to control, to be praised and celebrated, the need to gratify their vain ambition. These are character flaws. They cover up these flaws by claiming to have priestly authority from God.  (D&C 121: 34-44.)

They are the world’s Pharaohs, not the world’s Abraham’s. Their hearts are hard, their minds blind.  

They do not hear the Spirit of God, and therefore none of the powers of heaven are with them.

This was/is their choice. They could have had the same privilege.  But, alas, they prefer instead their own aggrandizement. They prefer monuments built with their names engraven on them. There is no message of truth and hope coming from them. Their words (the only things which really endure), will fall to the ground unfulfilled.  They will not be remembered.  They will return without a saved soul.

What stunning doctrines we have stumbled upon here!  I’m getting worried about things as I look about. This Book of Mormon is alarming…

Prophet, Seer, Revelator

I was asked this question:

“If the first presidency and the twelve really operate much like the lay members do, how then do you reconcile the MEANING of the words: Prophet; Seer; and Revelator. Aren’t these gifts unusual and set apart for the highest positions of the church? Wouldn’t one necessarily receive visions and dreams to qualify as a Prophet, Seer, or Revelator? How else would one SEE into the past, or the future, let alone clearly understanding the present? How do you reconcile the current revelatory state of the leadership with the meaning of the words, prophet, seer, and revelator?”

Inside the Church the current interpretation is that the “office” has associated with it a “title” set out in scripture.  The “office” of the President of the High Priesthood (D&C 107: 65-66) , who is the President of the Church, also bears the “title” of “prophet, seer and revelator.”  (D&C 107: 91-92.)  The current interpretation of these verses is that the possessor of the office is entitled to the title of “prophet, seer and revelator” by virtue of office alone.  Therefore, nothing more is needed in current church usage other than possession of the office, which alone gives the possessor of the office the title accorded to the office.  So, no, our current terminology does not require something other than office.

It is possible to read the words of the verses differently, of course.  First, the words we have adopted as they appear in scripture are not actually “prophet, seer and revelator” but are instead: “a seer, a revelator, a translator, and a prophet.”  Those are different words and include in the phrase “a translator” in addition to “seer, revelator and a prophet.”  We have dropped the word “translator” from the title we now use.

Second, it is possible that the following words may be viewed to mean something different than the way we currently read them, “to be like unto Moses— Behold, here is wisdom; yea, to be a seer, a revelator, a translator, and a prophet,”  (D&C 107: 91-92).  They could be read to mean that before you fill the office of President of the High Priesthood you must first locate “a seer” who is also, by definition, “a revelator” and “a translator” who is undoubtedly therefore “a prophet” and, having found such a person, you are to sustain him into the office.  The office doesn’t make the man, but the Lord makes a man into such an instrument, and having done so then the church is to put him into the office.  There are of course those who have these gifts.  Many of them have no church office involving priesthood, because they are female.  They may possess gifts, but they are disqualified for office.  Then there are men who possess such gifts, but they may be living in South America, serving in a small branch, and completely unnoticed by the leadership, and therefore, never called.

The problem with the second point is that it invites near chaos.  You would have dozens, hundreds or perhaps thousands of people who would step forward and make the claim that they are entitled to the office.  Ambitious men who are either deceived or, worse still, cunning and dishonest, would seek to gain the office to further their ambitions.  Such a parade of the deluded or the dishonest would be foisted upon the Saints every time the President died.  Therefore, no matter how much merit you may think the second interpretation holds, it would be far more problematic to implement than the current interpretation and method.

The advantage of the current system is that the man who fills the vacancy is distinguished by how long he has held the church’s office of Apostle.  Generally that means an elderly man, often suffering from the decline of advanced years and poor health.  That means you are likely to have a man whose ambitions and exuberance are tempered by the maturity of age and the wisdom that comes from long life’s experience.  It gives stability to the decision, as well as the person chosen.

If the second approach were to be adopted, then the choice would need to be made by the serving President before he left office (died), by making the choice of his successor as part of his official service.  This is the method that the Lord revealed to Joseph Smith. (D&C 43: 3-4.) Joseph attempted this, but the one he chose to succeed him died with him (his brother Hyrum). So the office was left vacant and we had to sort it out.

There is another method that we haven’t tried, so far as I know.  That would be to use “lots” to choose from every male in the church.  This method was used to fill Judas’ vacancy in the original Twelve in Jerusalem.  (Acts 1: 21-26.)  The description there is ambiguous, but was intended to be random, unpredictable and not just a vote.  It was a recognized way to choose someone.  (See, e.g., 1 Ne. 3: 11.)  It has been used to sort through the entire nation of Israel when all twelve tribes were assembled.  Someone had stolen an idol, resulting in the withdrawal of the Lord’s Spirit from them in battle.  The result was defeat for Israel and the death of many men.  They needed to find the one who committed the offense.  So they had to choose from the entire gathering of all twelve tribes.   Beginning at the tribe level, they sorted through to find the right tribe (Judah).  Then proceeded to sort through the tribe to locate the larger family involved (Zarhites).  Then went through the family to find the individual involved (Achan).  The whole thing is in the scriptures.  (Joshua 7: 13-23.)  

Such a system was uncontrolled by man, done by lot, completely random, but produced the right person.  Left to God, it obtained God’s answer.  Did with the sons of Lehi, and with the vacancy in the Twelve in the Book of Acts, too.  There is no reason why such a system wouldn’t generate the Lord’s choice today.  

If the President died without a successor having been designated, then random choosing using a lot system would put the choice in the Lord’s hands.  But I suppose we don’t have the stomach to try it, particularly when we already have a system that seems to work for us.

Your question raises the issue of “authority” or office on the one hand, and “power” or gifts of the Spirit on the other hand.  You should read President Packer’s talk in last General Conference for a recent statement by a respected church leader on that subject.  I think I’ve commented on that talk enough already.  As I re-read it this week I was again stirred by President Packer’s sagacity.  I believe he is being candid, honest and giving the Saints the absolute best advice and counsel he can at this time.

Interesting subject.  Something worth contemplating.  Perhaps there will come a time when we are able to implement the system in D&C 43. Or when we put the Lord’s hand to work by using lots to choose a President.  Though I do not expect to see any change made during my life.

Patriarch

When I first joined the church we sustained the Patriarch of the Church, along with the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve as a “Prophet, Seer and Revelator.”  I would expect that at some point Patriarch Smith will be succeeded by his oldest, direct, descendant, unless there is still a living sibling of his upon whom the office would devolve (which I doubt).
 
When the office was established, it formed an independent line of priesthood authority. This line was not be dependent upon selection by temporary office holders drawn from many family lines.  Instead the Smith family, through whom the church was restored, would hold this hereditary office forever.  It will be interesting to see how this office is handled in the future.