The Priesthood of God

The typical Protestant denomination, as implied, protested against the Catholic Church. There is often no hierarchical structure representing Priesthood functions. Many believe in what is known as the priesthood of all believers, meaning that proper faith alone gives authority. Seminaries and colleges are set up to teach the doctrines in preparation of ministry work. Theology degrees are handed out as de-facto representations of authorized congregation leadership. Decisions of the church are determined by those who feel called to leadership duty and then voted in by the membership to a group or committee tasked with governance. Mormonism’s authority doesn’t come from the doctrine, but more like the Catholic Priesthood hierarchical structure. Men are called by others without prior training or personal desire to different offices of authority and responsibility. The biggest difference is that all men can receive the Priesthood even without any offices, but it must be a formal recognition. No one can declare they have the Priesthood (Heb. 5:4) without ordination from someone who had it before them.

Both Mormons and Catholics believe they have been given the authority of the Priesthood through Peter, although in different ways. For the Catholic it came down directly from him to others while he lived without any break. Mormonism, of course, believe that the angel John the Baptist gave the right of outward ordinances and the angels Peter, James, and John the more spiritual higher authority. The reasoning is a continuation of the belief that God must have order in His Kingdom. Permission and power must be granted in a specific way for mortals to have any authority to bless the world. Any other way, no matter how sincere the individual, is not recognized by the Heavens. Continue reading

Tracing the Priesthood

Tracing the formation of the Priesthood in Mormonism is not an easy task. Dates get confused, concepts change over time, offices are added or refined, and duties are not always clearly delineated. Like all institutions, the organization was not fully formed on the first day. However, in order to get a correct understanding of how the modern LDS Church works, the history of its authoritative structure must be explained. Joseph Smith wrote, “There is no salvation between the two lids of the Bible without a legal administrator. Jesus was then the legal administrator, and ordained His Apostles” (TPJS, pg. 319). Doctrine and revelation are of no value if the proper leadership is not in operation.

Historians start talking about Mormonism with the First Vision of Joseph Smith, where he witnesses God and Jesus Christ in a grove of trees after a day at work on the family property. Next in line is the vision of the Angel Moroni, with the eventual translation and publication of the Book of Mormon. Essential as these two events are for tracing what would be called Mormonism, it is the development of Priesthood that makes it of any importance. This more than anything for believers gives it purpose and meaning. The “Great Apostasy” is the loss of authority that the “Restoration” regains. The Priesthood is the Power of God to officiate in the ordinances of Salvation, and regulate the government of the Church.

During the process of translating the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith and his scribe Oliver Cowdery ran into the concept of authority to baptise. They questioned how anyone would be given the authority to baptise others. Joseph Smith stated, ““We still continued the work of translation, when, in the ensuing month (May, 1829), we on a certain day went into the woods to pray and inquire of the Lord respecting baptism for the remission of sins, that we found mentioned in the translation of the plates. While we were thus employed, praying and calling upon the Lord, a messenger from heaven descended in a cloud of light, and having laid his hands upon us, he ordained us,” to the Aaronic Priesthood (JS-H 1:68). Oliver Cowdery later wrote they were, “ordained by the angel John, unto the lesser or Aaronic priesthood, in company with myself, in the town of Harmony, Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania, on Friday, the 15th day of May, 1829,” in a preface to a book of formal blessings.Having been given the Aaronic Priesthood, the two baptised each other in the Susquehanna River before returning to the duty of translation.

The Aaronic Priesthood ordination would only be the beginning of Priesthood confiral. John the Baptist promised more power would be given them by other messengers. Generally speaking, a higher priesthood having the authority to give the gift of the Holy Ghost would be bestowed on them. This promise was realized when the angels Peter, James, and John ordained them to the Melchizedek Priesthood on an unspecified date. The missing date has created a level of confusion amplified by possible differences between how the Priesthood was first understood and now. Continue reading

I Don’t Wear White Dress Shirts

whiteshirt… that often. They just don’t appeal to or look good on me. How far back this aesthetic concern goes in my life I am not sure. Perhaps its only as recently in my life timeline as returning from my mission. Every day from dusk until dawn a missionary wears white shirts and ties, if not suits, as a servant of the Lord. Like any uniform, after the official reason for its use ends it feels good to change into something else. No reason to wear a drab color when there are so many other choices. The reason I don’t like to wear white shirts might sound shallow, and there is truth to that consideration, but tastes are not always complicated.

Part of my personality is less than white shirt and tie compatible. From an early age I have been an artistic minded person. My most distinct youthful memories include drawing or coloring on whatever piece of paper crossed my path. As an example, on Saturdays after cartoons there was a classic monster show that came on one of the channels. Giant monsters were my favorite. One of those was a giant tarantula that terrorized the American foothills of some unnamed geography. Having at the time fallen in love with the show the first viewing, I put that fandom down in art. Not just any old picture would do for my enthusiasm. No, I drew and colored (for a black and white film) the basic storyboard of the movie’s events. In the mind of that young boy sitting half the Saturday doing his creation, he was writer and director of a remake. White means fill the space up with shapes and colors. Continue reading

Our Young Men Are Leaving the Church

A prevalent argument has formed that women and girls are leaving the Church in droves. The implication is that more women are leaving than men and in historic numbers. All of this is based on anecdotal observation without much actual evidence. Regardless of the actual situation, other equally valid anecdotal based observations can argue that men are still far more likely to leave or not ever join the Church than women. This is not unique to Mormonism according to studies of religious organizations.

Why are men most likely to drop or reject religion? The studies do not really answer that question any more than why women might. In fact, more women remain a part of religious institutions then men. The doesn’t sound correct if feminists are right in the assumptions that traditional religions are oppressive patriarchies. Islam is one of the only major religions where men are more likely to join and participate, but it is an exception and not the rule.

The suggestions of possible reasons are mine alone. They are also theoretical from lifelong participation. Because of the general nature of the subject, stereotypes are present for a wider discussion. Although I never left the Church or intend to anytime soon to give personal examples, there remains a lifetime of experience as a male member. My friends were male, my religious associates were male, and I was raised with brothers and sisters. Some of the acquaintances I have known continue in the faith. Others drifted away like so many. Continue reading

The Quest for Polygamy in Sunday School

The title might sound strange, but that is what some members of the LDS Church are asking to find. Stories are told about lifelong members not hearing until adult age that Joseph Smith, or even Brigham Young, had practiced polygamy. These are not converts that can be expected to not know the basics of Mormon history. How can this happen? Its really hard to imagine, considering how intertwined Mormonism is with polygamy in popular secular thought. Eventually, sooner than later, a Mormon gets asked how many wives they or their husbands or father has. It becomes an exasperating eye roll question rather than shock. Most of the time. Apparently not all the time and for everyone.

My own experience, I believe, is a typical example of the slow learning about polygamy. Like so many Mormons, the subject just wasn’t brought up in church. Primary was too early where even discussions about reproduction would be inappropriate. The two subjects kind of go together. Most of the time the first inkling of both comes from school peers. At the age of around 10, that was the context of my exposure to the idea within Mormon teachings and history. My non-Mormon friend asked an offhand question if Mormons practice polygamy. I was taken by surprise, and assured him that there were all kinds of rumors floating around about Mormonism. I assume even by that remembered point of my life that I must have heard something before then to say it was one of many falsehoods.

A few years later I find out that Mormonism did indeed teach and practice polygamy, but not from a hostile source. By my mid-teen years I had developed a fascination with Joseph Smith and so grabbed the closest biography I could find. No, it wasn’t Fawn Brody’s famous scholar approved expose. The book Joseph Smith: An American Prophet by John Henry Evans was a rough sketch of his life and contained a small notice of Joseph Smith’s polygamy. The 1933 book stated, “ Polygamy or, as the Mormons prefer to call it, ‘plural marriage,’ was first introduced among the Saints in Nauvoo, in 1841 — although the Prophet had had the idea in mind ever since 1831.” (1966 ed., pg. 271). Again, the confirmation of this didn’t come from a source outside Mormon faith, but A Comprehensive History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by B.H. Roberts who was himself a practitioner. He devoted an entire chapter in the second volume of his multi-volume history.

Both books might have talked about polygamy, the latter more than the former, but for completely different reasons. B.H. Roberts treatment aimed to argue that Joseph Smith introduced the practice for the intended audience of the now Community of Christ deniers. John Henry Evans reasoning sought to show that polygamy came from religious convictions. Regardless of why the two talked about it, the point is that Deseret Book published these books openly. Arguably it might be considered white washed treatments, but by no means was it hidden. Continue reading