A couple of months ago I spoke to some Mormon missionaries about baptism. They asked me what I thought about baptism and after I told them I believed in believer’s baptism by immersion, they appeared pleased. They then proceeded to tell me that my own baptism was invalid because it was not conducted by someone with proper ‘authority’.
To Latter Day Saints, only those who hold the priesthood have the authority to administer sacraments and, only the LDS have the priesthood.
The Priesthood sessions at the General Conference are aimed at young male Mormons (12-18 year olds) who hold the Aaronic Priesthood, and older Mormon males (18+) who hold the Melchizedek Priesthood.
Having listened to the sessions, one has a sense of what is expected of those who have ‘been entrusted with..’ what President Monson calls, ‘…one of the most precious gifts ever bestowed upon mankind’.
One can’t fail to be moved and challenged by some of the things said by LDS leaders in these sessions.
The session on Fatherhood – Our Eternal Destiny by Larry M. Gibson Recently Released First Counsellor in the Young Men General Presidency, was particularly challenging.
The challenge to be a good father and a good husband is a relevant word for every Christian man, but you get the sense as you listen to his message, that the way the LDS talk about family is bordering on idolatrous. This is not so strange when you are aware of what the LDS teach about eternal marriage and heavenly families.
As young men listen to the message, they know it is their duty to go on a mission, then find a wife, then have a plethora of children; after all there are many ‘spirit’ children needing to come and work out their plan of salvation. They then need to be a good father and to lead their children to become faithful Latter Day Saints. Welcome to the Priesthood boys!
In a later session, President Monson spoke on the topic of ‘The Priesthood – A sacred gift’. He recalls a hymn from his youth: “ Come, all ye sons of God who have received the priesthood”; and he challenges his hearers with the words ‘let us consider our callings; let us reflect on our responsibilities; let us determine our duty; and let us follow Jesus Christ, our Lord.’
His words perhaps sum up, not just life in the priesthood, but the entire LDS belief system; one of responsibilities and duty. This well-known verse from The Book of Mormon says it all:
For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do. 2 Nephi 25:23
This is a far cry from its equivalent verse in Ephesians 2
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. (v.8-10)
No effort, no duty, just grace. Amazing grace!
President Monson shared how the priesthood was restored:
‘…the restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood to Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith by John the Baptist is most significant. Likewise, the restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood to Joseph and Oliver by Peter, James, and John is a cherished event… I hope each young man who has been ordained to the Aaronic Priesthood is given a spiritual awareness of the sacredness of his ordained calling, as well as opportunities to magnify that calling.’
D&C section 13 says this about the event:
An extract from Joseph Smith’s history recounting the ordination of the Prophet and Oliver Cowdery to the Aaronic Priesthood near Harmony, Pennsylvania, May 15, 1829. 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 this higher priesthood would be conferred upon them. (See section 27:7–8, 12.)
The restoration of the priesthood (and the assumed authority that comes with it) stands or falls on the testimony of Joseph Smith, at least it does if you are LDS. For those of us who are not LDS, we can look at things a little more objectively, a little more Biblically.
The first thing that is noticeable in this account is that an angel appeared. This angel claimed to be John the Baptist and then claimed to be acting under the direction of Peter, James and John.
An angel appears and preaches something new, another gospel…
I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.
Here is a question: Why did the Aaronic priesthood need to be restored?
This Aaronic priesthood, like many ritualistic activities found in the Old Testament were foreshadowing something (or rather someone) that was to come. Everything they did point to Jesus. The work of the Aaronic Priesthood spoke of the finished work of Jesus. Once Jesus had made atonement for sin, and the veil torn in two, there was no longer any need for the Aaronic Priesthood.
So why would John the Baptist (or indeed anyone else) try to restore it through Joseph Smith? It is also a small aside, but an important one, that this restored Aaronic Priesthood is bestowed upon 12-18 year olds!
The Book of Numbers chapter 4:1-3 says:
‘And the Lord spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying,Take the sum of the sons of Kohath from among the sons of Levi, after their families, by the house of their fathers, From thirty years old and upward even until fifty years old, all that enter into the host, to do the work in the tabernacle of the congregation’
Those who served in the Aaronic Priesthood had to be Levites (LDS fail); they had to be between 30-50 years of age (LDS fail) and they also went through an arduous process of purification (Leviticus 8) (LDS fail).
For young LDS men to become Aaronic Priests, the process consists of an interview and the laying on of hands!! (Biblical Test = Fail).
President Monson goes on to talk about his transition from the Aaronic to the Melchizedek Priesthood:
‘As I approached my 18th birthday and prepared to enter the mandatory military service required of young men during World War II, I was recommended to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood, but first I needed to telephone my stake president, Paul C. Child, for an interview…’
President Child said, “Brother Monson, you hold the Aaronic Priesthood. Have you ever had angels minister to you?” I replied that I had not. When he asked if I knew I was entitled to such, I again replied that I had not known.
He instructed, “Brother Monson, repeat from memory the 13th section of the Doctrine and Covenants.” I began, “‘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—’”
“Stop,” President Child directed. Then, in a calm, kindly tone, he counseled, “Brother Monson, never forget that as a holder of the Aaronic Priesthood you are entitled to the ministering of angels.”
As the LDS fail all the tests of the Aaronic Priesthood, and there is indeed no need for an Aaronic Priesthood, it is right to conclude there will be no ministering of God’s angels for them, though we can assume that he who can transform himself into an angel of light will be sat front row and centre at General Conference!
But what are we to make of President Monson’s tale of healing:
The night before our Christmas leave, our thoughts were of home. The barracks were quiet, but then the silence was broken by my buddy in the adjoining bunk—a Mormon boy, Leland Merrill—who began to moan in pain. I inquired concerning the reason, and he said he felt really sick. He did not want to go to the base dispensary, for he knew that doing such would prevent his going home the following day.
He seemed to grow worse as the hours passed. Finally, knowing that I was an elder, he asked me to give him a priesthood blessing.
I had never before given a priesthood blessing, I had never received a blessing, and I had never witnessed a blessing being given. As I prayed silently for help, I remembered the Missionary Handbook in the bottom of my seabag. I quickly emptied the bag and took the book to the night-light. There I read how one blesses the sick. With many curious sailors looking on, I proceeded with the blessing. Before I could put everything back into my bag, Leland Merrill was sleeping like a child. He awakened the following morning feeling fine. The gratitude each of us felt for the power of the priesthood was immense.
Does this story mean that there is ‘power, power, wonder-working power’ in the priesthood? Not at all.
Many groups claim healings in the name of Christ. After all Jesus told of those who could perform such, but they are not of him. Matthew 7:21-23
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
President Monson concludes his message with these words:
As bearers of the priesthood of God, we are engaged in the work of the Lord Jesus Christ. We have answered His call; we are on His errand. Let us learn of Him. Let us follow in His footsteps. Let us live by His precepts. By so doing, we will be prepared for any service He calls us to perform. This is His work. This is His Church. Indeed, He is our captain, the King of Glory, even the Son of God. I testify that He lives and bear this witness in His holy name, the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Unfortunately those hearing his words, those claiming a priesthood authority, are not engaged in the work of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is not His work, nor His Church.
True Biblical authority is available to all who have repented of their sins and put their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Those who do so are indwelt by the Holy Ghost, the same Holy Ghost who gave the disciples their authority.
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.
This is also confirmed by The Book of Mormon:
And the Holy Ghost giveth authority that I should speak these things, and deny them not. (1 Nephi 10:22).
Authority is given by God, not by a church!