The Authority & Priesthood Issue
Who Holds the Keys of Authority?
If you were to ask a Mormon the question listed above, they would tell you that only the LDS Church holds the proper authority to preach, baptize and be called the children of God. The following is a synopsis of why. They believe that it was absolutely necessary a “restoration” take place. This means it is their belief that all of Christianity was wrong and therefore needed to be brought back from whence it came. In order to do this, God needed a “chosen prophet” whom he authorized to carry out his “plan of salvation”.
Because God does not vary, nor does He change His order of things, it is understood by the LDS members there must be ordinances performed and rituals observed to gain true salvation which to the Mormon is godhood.
Smith taught that just as in all the ages before Christ, there would be a “chosen people” to whom the gospel was given. According to Smith it had been pre-determined and foretold this last dispensation was to take place through Joseph Smith. He in turn would “ordain” members of the Church with the priesthood, which is what carries the authority to preach and administer the laws of God. The Encyclopedia of Joseph Smith’s Teachings, pg. 56 says;
“We believe that no man can administer salvation through the gospel, to the souls of men, in the name of Jesus Christ, except he is authorized from God, by revelation, or by being ordained by some one whom God hath sent by revelation, as it is written by Paul, Romans 10:14, “and how shall they believe in him, of whom, they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent?” and I will ask, how can they be sent without a revelation, or some other visible display of the manifestation of God.”
Smith received a revelation from God in Kirtland, OH on March 8, 1833 telling him that he (Smith) would hold the keys to the kingdom of heaven and hold all authority for all time and eternity. History of the Church 1:329-31 and in D&C 90:1-4;
“Thus saith the Lord, verily, verily I say unto you my son, thy sins are forgiven thee, according to thy petition, for thy prayers and the prayers of thy brethren have come up into my ears. Therefore, thou art blessed from henceforth that bear the keys of the kingdom given unto you; which kingdom is coming forth for the last time. Verily I say unto you, the keys of this kingdom shall never be taken from you, while thou art in the world, neither in the world to come; Nevertheless, through you shall the oracles be given to another, yea, even unto the church.”
Here’s what Doctrines of Salvation 3:80 has to say in regards to authority:
“Man cannot act legally in the name of the Lord unless he is vested with the priesthood, which is divine authority. No man has the power or the right to take this honor to himself. Unless he is called of God, as was Aaron…The Lord has said his house is a house of order….”
It is vital that the ex-Mormon understands he/she is not under this “authority” any longer, but has been commanded by Jesus to go out to the nations and spread the gospel as Jesus told us to do in Matthew 28:18-20. While not everyone is going to become preachers or
oversee ministries, it is important the authority topic is acknowledged. It serves its purpose in placing the spiritual loyalty where it belongs; that being Jesus of course! Notice also how they’ve stripped Jesus’ authority of being God from His very hands.
Addressing this issue emphasizes that the One True God has been in control of the church throughout the last 20 centuries and isn’t in “need” of anyone or anything! It also helps the new Christian to understand that they, along with the true God, are the ones in charge of their lives, not the church. The authority the early Christian church received came from four sources.
1-The Old Testament (keep in mind it was referred to as scripture then). It was their ultimate authority in all matters and they also learned by seeing Jesus use scripture to correct and teach. Paul and Peter both quoted from the Hebrew “Bible” in their epistles to the churches.
2 – The early church treated Jesus’ words, parables and everything He said with absolute authority. His words outweighed everything and everyone. Yes, Jesus accepted the Hebrew Scriptures as having absolute authority, but His power extended beyond that.
3 – The apostles’ teachings held authority. Proof of this is found throughout the book of Acts. The amount of people that listened and believed because of the power of the Holy Spirit manifested through them was a miracle. Acts 5:11-14. This shows they had received authority to preach Jesus’ name and build the church. They were able to give a full explanation of Jesus’ teachings after He had been crucified.
4 – The letters of the apostles and disciples. There is absolute authority in the written letters by the apostles and they hold as much authority as their oral teachings. No one disputed any of the writings when the letters were written and were being passed around from one church to the next. The witnesses of the events they wrote about were still alive and could attest to the validity of them!
In the first chapter of Acts we can see with clarity the instructions and promises that Jesus gave to the Apostles. Acts 1:8 serves as both a promise and instruction! It is with authority that we are expected to preach the word of God because of the power we have received from the Holy Spirit.
Acts 1:8; “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”
While I don’t wish to belabor this topic I truly feel this handbook wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t have the help of some good friends of mine. The following contribution came from my dear friend Ed Decker.
Joseph Smith & his priesthoods
Mormonism’s Claim to have the full and only authority to act in the name of God on Earth needs to be looked at, not only from the revelation of it from LDS scripture, but also from the Bible.
DOCTRINE AND COVENANTS
OF THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS SECTION 13
Ordination of Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery to the Aaronic Priesthood along the bank of the Susquehanna River, near Harmony, Pennsylvania, May 15, 1829. HC 1: 39–42. The ordination was done by the hands of an angel, who announced himself as John, the same that is called John the Baptist in the New Testament. The angel explained that he was acting under the direction of Peter, James, and John, the ancient apostles, who held the keys of the higher priesthood, which was called the Priesthood of Melchizedek. The promise was given to Joseph and Oliver that in due time the Priesthood of Melchizedek would be conferred upon them. See also Section 27: 7, 8, 12.
Keys and powers of Aaronic Priesthood are set forth.
Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah I confer the Priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; and this shall never be taken again from the earth, until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness.
Later, in Chapter 27, we read:
8 Which John I have sent unto you, my servants, Joseph Smith, Jun., and Oliver Cowdery, to ordain you unto the first priesthood which you have received, that you might be called and ordained even as Aaron;
9 And also Elijah, unto whom I have committed the keys of the power of turning the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to the fathers, that the whole earth may not be smitten with a curse;
10 And also with Joseph and Jacob, and Isaac, and Abraham, your fathers, by whom the promises remain;
11 And also with Michael, or Adam, the father of all, the prince of all, the ancient of days;
12 And also with Peter, and James, and John, whom I have sent unto you, by whom I have ordained you and confirmed you to be apostles, and especial witnesses of my name, and bear the keys of your ministry and of the same things which I revealed unto them;
Joseph himself described the visitation of John the Baptist in the Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith History, verse 72 when he said:
“The messenger who visited us on this occasion and conferred this Priesthood upon us, said that his name was John, the same that is called John the Baptist in the New Testament, and that he acted under the direction of Peter, James and John, who held the keys of the Priesthood of Melchizedek, which Priesthood, he said, would in due time be conferred on us, and that I should be called the first Elder of the Church, and he (Oliver Cowdery) the second. It was on the fifteenth day of May, 1829, that we were ordained under the hand of this messenger, and baptized.”
Now, let’s step away from what the LDS Scripture and Joseph himself, has said and look at it a bit more carefully, from a Biblical perspective.
Joseph’s claim that John the Baptist descended and restored the Levitical priesthood of Aaron can only lead one to believe that he had little or no knowledge of the Bible or Jewish tradition at the time.
John the Baptist never held the Levitical priesthood, and could not restore something he never had, even in Mormon theology. John wore the skins of an animal and ate food that was considered unclean to the Levitical priesthood. He functioned in the streets and by-ways, proclaiming Jesus Christ, calling people to repent and be baptized. The priesthood functioned within the temple at the altar. It doesn’t match up.
If he were a member of the priesthood of his day, its leaders knew nothing of it. When challenged by Christ regarding this very subject, they were ignorant of John’s authority
23 Now when He came into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people confronted Him as He was teaching, and said, “By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority? 24 But Jesus answered and said to them, “I also will ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things: 25 The baptism of John — where was it from? From heaven or from men?” And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘From men,’ we fear the multitude, for all count John as a prophet.” 27 So they answered Jesus and said, “We do not know.” And He said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things. Matt 21:23-27 NKJV
Further, the Mormon priesthood that Joseph Smith claimed was a restoration does not deal with the key functions of the early Aaronic priesthood, the offering of gifts according to the law.
3 For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices. Therefore it is necessary that this One also have something to offer. 4 For if He were on earth, He would not be a priest, since there are priests who offer the gifts according to the law; 5 who serve the copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was divinely instructed when he was about to make the tabernacle. For He said, “See that you make all things according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.” 6 But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises. Heb 8:3-6 NKJ
Jesus has given us a better Covenant, established upon better promises and has made the old to vanish away. Why would Jesus want to restore what He had come to put an end to?
Joseph Smith claimed that Peter, James and John came and restored the Melchizedek priesthood. This declaration, like each before it, cannot meet the test of Scripture, or logic.
In Mormonism, no man can hold the Melchizedek priesthood without first holding the Aaronic priesthood. Those great Apostles of the Lord most obviously were not operating as Levitical priests. Everything they did within the record of the Word of God places them totally outside that dead priesthood.
The true Melchizedek priesthood was always a priesthood of only one! It existed before the law was given (Genesis 14:18) and after the law was ended (Hebrews 7:11-17). It sprang forth with the first offering of bread and wine. (Genesis 14:18) It reappeared only when the final offering of the broken body of Christ and His shed blood ended the penalty of the law as He became our sin offering by the sacrifice of Himself (Hebrews 9:12-14).
© 2010 Life After Ministries, Inc.