RS/MP Lesson 14: “Priesthood Organization” (Gospel Principles Manual)
Posted by NathanG on July 11, 2010
This lesson is particularly long and it would be difficult to adequately address all aspects of this lesson in the short time that is usually available for a priesthood or relief society lesson. While the last lesson deals with what the priesthood is, this contains much of the nuts and bolts of how the priesthood is organized today. For the new member it is going to introduce a lot of terms with definitions that don’t always align well with what their experience may have been in other churches. For a priesthood quorum of seasoned members of the church this will be a repeat of what is often a yearly lesson. Good luck to those with the task of leading a discussion on this topic.
Since this is a long chapter, and some of the material is sufficient to itself, I’ll simply point out some things that struck me as I read through the lesson.
On the first page we learn that the first priesthood is called the Melchizedek Priesthood out of respect or reverence to the name of the Supreme Being and to avoid too frequent repetition of his name, the priesthood originally being called the Holy Priesthood, after the Order of the Son of God. This is accompanied by at least 5 references to the name of deity. I am often left wondering where we stand today on the frequent usage of the name of deity. Is there something being lost in translation from former times in the name of the priesthood? We seem pretty liberal today in the usage of names of deity, but they were concerned about saying the Son of God too frequently.
We notice in the name of the priesthood that it is after the Order of the Son of God. This language is used extensively in the discussion on priesthood in Alma 13. Discussion on this can be found at the site’s wiki here (and if you feel like contributing to the wiki, it is a continual work in progress.)
The relationship between the keys of the priesthood and the priesthood is described well by a passage from President Joseph F. Smith. This section is concluded by a question “How do priesthood keys safeguard the Church?” This question could be explored in a couple of ways. What would be the result if the priesthood keys were removed from the earth today? What would be the result if there were no keys associated with the priesthood?
A note on terms. The English word priest comes from the same greek word for elder, presbyteros. A second greek word is also translated into priest, hiereus. The presbyteros may then refer to people who are older or with more seniority, and may have a ministerial/teaching connotation. The hiereus form is more distinctly used to describe one who sacrifices. Patriarch in LDS usage is the same as evangelical ministers, particularly discussed in D&C 107:39. The current usage of high priest refers to a Melchizedek Priesthood office, but there was also anciently a presiding Aaronic Priesthood high priest under the law of Moses. Given the number of differences in terminology related to priesthood offices, care should be taken when trying to superimpose the way we see priesthood organization today with that described in other instances in scripture. I also find interesting the number of wicked ancient Israelite kings who set up their own priests, as well as King Noah and other Book of Mormon kings. Were all of these priests legitimate in our current sense of priesthood, or did they simply serve as ministers to the king, perhaps mimicking that we become priests unto God?
Qualifications of a Deacon are set for in 1 Timothy chapter 3 following the qualifications of the bishop. Some Christian religions consider Stephen in the New Testament, along with the other six, to be the first deacons.
An apostle is a special witness of the name of Jesus Christ in all the world. I have thought of at least three ways to consider how this could be.
As with all baptized members of the church, an apostle is a witness of Christ at all times, but has the specific responsibility of being a witness in all the world.
The gift of the Spirit to “know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he was crucified for the sins of the world” (D&C 46:13) is specific to an apostle, and to the rest of us may be given the gift to believe on their words.
Apostles have a manifestation of Christ that is unique, perhaps a personal visitation, allowing them to witness of Christ in a unique way.
I don’t know which I would favor the most given that an apostle is also an office within the Melchizedek Priesthood.