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Mar262011

Priesthood

The Mormon church teaches that only its worthy male members possess the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthood today, and with it comes God's exclusive authority to administer the ordinances of the gospel (i.e. baptism, healing, sacrament, preaching, etc.) Since the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods are Biblical concepts, it is imperative to understand their Biblical origins.

Aaronic/Levitical Priesthood

In Judaism (aka Old Covenant, Old Testament, the Law) Aaron and his sons were set apart from the twelve tribes to perform service in the tabernacle, and later the temple.

  • The priestly duty was restricted to the lineage of Aaron and passed down to his descendants. Exodus 30:21, Numbers 3:32,18:6-7
  • Aaron was the initial high priest (Exodus 30:10), a position of oversight and responsibility including entering the 'Holy of Holies' once a year (Leviticus 16:34, Hebrews 9:7). This position also passed down to the lineal successor. Exodus 29:29, Numbers 20:26,28

In Christianity (aka New Covenant, New Testament, the Gospel) the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ fulfilled the Judaic system, which made obsolete its priestly offices.
  • Christ's death is the last and final sacrifice. Hebrews 7:27, 10:10
  • The New Covenant rendered the Old Covenant obsolete. Hebrews 7:22,8:6,13,9:15,10:9
  • Furthermore, to ensure the end of the Judaic model, Christ prophesied that Jerusalem and the Jewish temple would be destroyed (fulfilled in 70 A.D.). Luke 19:41-44, 21:5-6, Matthew 24:1-2, Mark 13:1-2
  • In the New Covenant, all believers in Christ (men, women, Jew, Gentile) are priests. 1 Peter 2:9, Revelation 1:6
  • In the New Covenant, all believers in Christ offer spiritual sacrifices. Romans 12:1, Hebrews 13:15, 1 Peter 2:5
  • Jesus Christ is the only High Priest today. Hebrews 2:17,3:1,4:14,7:26,8:1,9:11
    Holy Bible ...Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant. The former priests, on the one hand, existed in greater numbers because they were prevented by death from continuing, but Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently. Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. For the Law appoints men as high priests who are weak, but the word of the oath, which came after the Law, appoints a Son, made perfect forever. Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens... But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second... When He said, "A new covenant," He has made the first obsolete But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.
    — Hebrews 7:22-8:1,6-7,13

Conclusion
Christ rendered the Aaronic/Levitical priesthood obsolete, and the destruction of the Jewish temple in 70 A.D. guaranteed it.
  • There is no Biblical evidence in the Christian era (post-Resurrection), that Christians were ordained into the Aaronic/Levitical priesthood.
  • That the sitting High Priest persecuted the Christians is evidence that the Judaic priestly offices was not carried over into Christianity. Persecution of:
    • The Apostles: Acts 5:17-18
    • Paul: Acts 23-24
    • Jesus Christ: Matthew 26:57-68
  • The Book of Mormon does not mention the Aaronic/Levitical priesthood. This is consistent with its own narrative, as Lehi (the Nephite/Lamanite patriarch) was of the tribe of Manasseh (Alma 10:3), thus his lineage was restricted from the Aaronic/Levitical priesthood.

There is no basis in the Bible or Book of Mormon that justifies a modern Aaronic priesthood.



Melchizedek

In Judaism, the Book of Genesis mentions a priest/king named Melchizedek. There is no other Biblical evidence of anyone practicing or being ordained into a "Melchizedek priesthood". Only four verses mention him:

  • Three: his introduction in the book of Genesis. Genesis 14:18-20
  • One: a messianic prophecy linking Jesus Christ to the "order of Melchizedek". Psalm 110:4

In Christianity, Chapter 7 of the book of Hebrews explains the "order of Melchizedek": how he was superior in position over the Aaronic priests; and how Jesus Christ uniquely fulfills this prophetic type and shadow of a priest/king.

  • Jesus Christ was not ordained into the Aaronic priesthood since He was of the tribe of Judah. Heb. 7:14
  • Since Christ fulfilled the position of the Aaronic high priest, it was necessary for another priesthood superior than the Aaronic: hence the "order of Melchizedek"—which itself was modeled after Christ. Heb. 7:3
  • Melchizedek is superior:
    • He predates Aaron. Heb. 7:1
    • Through Abraham the Levites paid tithes to Melchizedek. Heb. 7:4-10
    • "Melchizedek" translated means "King of Righteousness", a title suitable to Christ. Heb. 7:2
    • Melchizedek was unique in that he was a priest and a king: "King of Salem" (which is Jeru-salem), when translated means "King of Peace", both titles suitable to Christ. Heb. 7:2
    • Unlike the Aaronic which required lineal succession, Melchizedek had no genealogical record and thus no lineal restriction. Heb. 7:3
    • Unlike the Aaronic where one's priestly service ended upon death (Heb. 7:23), Melchizedek had no record of birth or death, thus is likened to Jesus who has "no beginning of days nor end of life" and thus is able to serve as priest perpetually. Heb. 7:3
  • The fulfillment of the Old Covenant requires a new priesthood. Heb. 7:12
  • Christ, who is perfect, is the ultimate priest Heb. 7:28

Conclusion
There is no Biblical evidence in Judaism or Christianity that persons were ordained into a "Melchizedek priesthood"—other than Jesus Christ, who is the only person uniquely qualified to fulfill the prophetic type and shadow of the priest/king Melchizedek.



The Mormon Priesthoods

David Whitmer, one of the Book of Mormon witnesses, made three allegations concerning the introduction of the Mormon priesthoods:

  1. They were man made positions, originating with Sidney Rigdon.
    David Whitmer This matter of the two orders of priesthood in the Church of Christ, and lineal priesthood of the old law being in the church, all originated in the mind of Sidney Rigdon. (p.64)

    The next grievous error which crept into the church was in ordaining high priests in June, 1831. This error was introduced at the instigation of Sydney Rigdon. The office of high priest was never spoken of, and never thought of being established in the church until Rigdon came in. (p.35)


    David Whitmer Mormon apostle and Book of Mormon witness
    An Address To All Believers In Christ
  2. They were not practiced by the early Mormon church. According to D&C 107:7, Elders are a position under the Melchizedek Priesthood, however the church historical records show it had ordained Elders prior to the introduction of the Melchizedek Priesthood:
    The authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood was manifested and conferred for the first time upon several of the Elders.
  3. Original revelations were edited to insert additional language to make it appear as though the church had these positions from the beginning.
    David Whitmer ...in a few years those revelations were changed to admit this high office, which otherwise would have condemned it. They were changed to mean something entirely different from the way they were first given and printed in the Book of Commandments; as if God had not thought of this great and important office when he gave those revelations...

    David Whitmer - Mormon apostle and Book of Mormon witness
    An Address To All Believers In Christ, p.46


The Edited Revelations

An examination of the earliest revelations confirm David Whitmer's claims that the revelations were edited to make it seem like the priesthood was part of the Mormon church from the beginning.

Timeline
1829
Joseph Smith was allegedly ordained to the Aaronic priesthood
1833
Revelations published with no mention of priesthoods or Joseph's ordination
1842
First ever mention of Joseph ordination 13 years after-the-fact
  • Doctrine and Covenants, Section 2
    Section 2 is absent in the first two editions (1833, 1835), and was inserted afterwards and back dated to make it seem that the angel Moroni had promised the priesthood in 1823.
  • Doctrine and Covenants, Section 13
    This "revelation" that Joseph Smith received the Aaronic Priesthood is not in any of the earliest editions of the Doctrine and Covenants. In fact it wasn't published until 13 years after the event and back dated to May 15, 1829.
  • Doctrine and Covenants, Section 20
    Three verses were added to the original revelation on church organization concerning the priesthood.
  • Doctrine and Covenants, Section 27
    The original revelation was edited to insert language that Joseph Smith had already received the priesthood years earlier.
  • There is no record that Joseph Smith ever received the Melchizedek Priesthood.
    B. H. Roberts The promise to confer upon Joseph and Oliver the Melchisedek 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.

    B. H. Roberts - Mormon Seventy and LDS church historian
    History of the Church 1:40


Conclusion

While the names are biblical, modern priesthood offices are not.


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