“Priesthood,” Topics and Questions (2023)
The word priesthood has two meanings. First, priesthood is the power and authority of God. It has always existed and will continue to exist without end.1 Through the priesthood, God created and governs the heavens and the earth. Through this power, He exalts His obedient children, bringing to pass “the immortality and eternal life of man.”2
Second, in mortality, priesthood is the power and authority that God gives to man to act in all things necessary for the salvation of God’s children. The blessings of the priesthood are available to all who receive the gospel.
In the spring of 1835, Joseph Smith received a revelation explaining the name of the priesthood: “There are, in the church, two priesthoods, namely, the Melchizedek and Aaronic, including the Levitical Priesthood. Why the first is called the Melchizedek Priesthood is because Melchizedek was such a great high priest. Before his day it was called the Holy Priesthood, after the Order of the Son of God. But out of respect or reverence to the name of the Supreme Being, to avoid the too frequent repetition of his name, they, the church, in ancient days, called that priesthood after Melchizedek, or the Melchizedek Priesthood. All other authorities or offices in the church are appendages to this priesthood. … The second priesthood is called the Priesthood of Aaron, because it was conferred upon Aaron and his seed, throughout all their generations. Why it is called the lesser priesthood is because it is an appendage to the greater, or the Melchizedek Priesthood, and has power in administering outward ordinances.”3
The authority of God to organize His Church and perform ordinances of salvation was lost because of apostasy after the death of Jesus Christ and His Apostles in the first century AD. However, it was restored by the Lord to Joseph Smith through heavenly messengers during the 19th century.
The keys of the priesthood are the right to preside and direct the affairs of the Church within a jurisdiction. Jesus Christ holds all the keys of the priesthood pertaining to His Church. He has conferred upon each of His Apostles all the keys that pertain to the kingdom of God on earth. The senior living Apostle, the President of the Church, is the only person on earth authorized to exercise all priesthood keys.
There is a difference between the authority of the priesthood and the power of the priesthood. Priesthood authority comes through ordination to the priesthood or through Church callings and assignments given by Church leaders who hold priesthood keys. Power comes from personal righteousness.
The Church provides the organization and means for teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ to all of God’s children. The priesthood includes the authority to administer ordinances of salvation to all human beings who are willing and worthy to accept them. Without the priesthood and the saving ordinances thereof, “the whole earth would be utterly wasted.”4
Jesus Christ is the best example of how to use the authority and power of the priesthood to serve and bless others. President M. Russell Ballard taught, “Not only is the priesthood the power by which the heavens and the earth were created, but it is also the power the Savior used in His mortal ministry to perform miracles, to bless and heal the sick, to bring the dead to life, and, as our Father’s Only Begotten Son, to endure the unbearable pain of Gethsemane and Calvary—thus fulfilling the laws of justice with mercy and providing an infinite Atonement and overcoming physical death through the Resurrection.”5
The family is ordained of God. It is the most important unit in time and in eternity. As part of our Heavenly Father’s plan, we were born into families. He established families to bring us happiness, to help us learn correct principles in a loving atmosphere, and to prepare us for eternal life. Parents have the vital responsibility to help their children prepare to return to Heavenly Father.
Each husband and father in the Church should strive to be worthy to hold the Melchizedek Priesthood. With his wife as an equal partner, he presides in righteousness and love, serving as the family’s spiritual leader.
President M. Russell Ballard taught: “In our Heavenly Father’s great priesthood-endowed plan, men have the unique responsibility to administer the priesthood, but they are not the priesthood. Men and women have different but equally valued roles. Just as a woman cannot conceive a child without a man, so a man cannot fully exercise the power of the priesthood to establish an eternal family without a woman. In other words, in the eternal perspective, both the procreative power and the priesthood power are shared by husband and wife.”6