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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.

15 Responses to “RS/MP Lesson 14: “Priesthood Organization” (Gospel Principles Manual)”

  1. […] RS/MP Lesson 14: “Priesthood Organization” (Gospel Principles … […]

  2. Julie said

    Any ideas on how to present this lesson without just going down the rows reading out loud? Last week, the RS teacher had us divide into groups and then the last 10 minutes of class, a spokesperson from each group shared what was discussed. I was going to cheat and do this, but she just did it, so now I can’t. Since this is simply the “nuts and bolts” as you said, I don’t know how to lead a discussion on this. All I’ve been able to think of is to call certain individuals who I know have sons or husbands who’ve been ordained or set apart and ask how they felt as they sat in on the ordinations. I need some suggestions or my lesson will be super short and sterile.

  3. BrianJ said

    Julie: I hope this comes across right….

    What about the lesson interests you? From the way you phrase your plea for ideas, it sounds like you’re just trying to survive the class rather than enjoy it. What do you want to know that your class could help with? What do you want to talk about? If your class on Sunday was entirely set up to only serve you—focus on your wants/likes/concerns/etc.—then what would you talk about?

    I believe that teachers need to have something “riding on” their lesson—need to have “a dog in the fight.” If you can answer some (or all) of my questions, then I am certain that people on this site will be able to provide you with some productive and effective ideas.

  4. Julie said

    I usually like to focus on a principle. This lesson is just the organization. I wish I could have swapped with the sister for last week’s lesson which was on what the priesthood was. I also often research the topic/principle and have general conference talks to help back it up. I love the bible dictionary too. I get some great discussions sometimes, but I can’t see past the skeleton here.

    While there are some great recent talks (one in May 2010 in particular) about the priesthood, it’s not about the organization. I suppose I can just give another lesson on the priesthood itself, but I WANT to stick to the manual’s lesson.

    I also find it very difficult as a woman to teach on the priesthood. The men have lessons on the priesthood all through YM — females NEVER have lessons on the priesthood. What I know I learned from my husband.

  5. Kristi said

    I’m going to have all the various topics: (Melchezidek, Aaronic, then all the sub headings like deaon, teacher, elder, etc) on the board all mixed up (unorganized). As we read the lesson I will “organize” them under the main headings of Melche. and Aaronic. I will tie this into the need for organization of the priesthood. I am also giving a T/F worksheet at the beginning of the class to get them thinking about things (example question: T/F There are only up to 12 deacons in each quorum. The questions on the worksheet will direct which portions of the manual I use.

    • Wendy said

      Kristi: What a great idea! I was thinking about having categories up on the board, as well. I also thought it would be great to have a mother/wife speak to the women on each category: How did they help prepare their son to be a deacon? How does a wife support her husband who is a bishop? This is going to be my approach. I like your T/F worksheet idea. I’m going to think about a handout, as well….Thanks for helping to get my wheels turning!

      • Wendy said

        You are WONDERFUL! What a splendid idea!I really like your T/F questions too. I was reading an amazing talk by Patricia Holland which I am going to use for sure. She talks about supporting our priesthood and it’s called, “A Woman’s Perspective on the Priesthood.” She shares a personal story in it which I feel relates so much to many women.
        Lastly, here is another handout idea: Obviously, I can’t copy/paste it well on here, but it spells “PRIESTHOOD” vertically:
        Priesthood Power
        Restored, Received by prophecy and the Laying on of Hands, Righteous Priesthood Holder,
        Inherit all that God has if we live worthy of this blessing
        Eternal Blessings, Enable mortals to act in God’s name
        Source of the Blessings? Sustain, Sacrament
        Through the Priesthood We Receive
        Heirs, Chosen Heirs
        Offices of the Priesthood, (Two Priesthoods) Ordinances & Oil
        Oath & Covenant– God Promises, They Promise
        Differences & Duties

        Shayla: I’m not scripture smart either–I wish I was. I’m sorry that I do not have any other scriptures besides what is listed.

    • Shayla said

      Like Wendy said, thanks for the ideas. It is always hard to figure out which approach to take. I am in a ward where I am the youngest in my relief Society. Being only 26 and teaching my superiors is very intimidating to me. I always like to have some kind of object lesson or something to get the sisters involved, so the worksheet is a great idea. My only question is, how are you coming up with the questions for the worksheet. I know probably a stupid question to ask, but I am not quite as “scripture smart” as I need to be. Could you help me with this?

      • kristi said


        I read an object lesson in a book. Get a piece of celery put it in grape juice or colored water. Show the class the celery will soak up the color for the stems, thus changing the color of the celery. The glass of colored water represents Power of God. The stalk represents a worthy man. When given the priesthood, the celery uses the same power of God and in fact, is transformed by it.

        The questions for my worksheet are all T/F and the answers are all True

        Lesson 14: Priesthood Organization (True or False)
        1. Melchizedek Priesthood was the not the first name of this Priesthood.
        2. President Monson is the presiding high priest over the Melchizedek Priesthood.
        3. In their fullness only one person holds the keys at a time.
        4. The bishop holds an office in the Aaronic Priesthood.
        5. A Priest can ordain other priests, teachers, and deacons.
        6. Patriarchs are ordained by General Authorities or Stake Presidents.
        7. The deacon’s quorum can consist to up to 12 deacons.
        8. A quorum of High Priests is all the high priests residing in a stake boundary.
        9. The Relief Society is an auxiliary to the priesthood.

      • Layne said

        Excellent True/False questions to get your class discussion moving. So many people know a little about the Priesthood and the authority, specifically the difference between the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods, but little more. I believe a well worded set of T/F questions would provide a useful guide and starting point so that the class members begin on the same page, with the same basic set of knowledge and assumptions. I plan to use the T/F questions as I am new and very apprehensive (read:SCARED) about teaching my first class tomorrow. Wish me luck!

  6. NathanG said

    I have a couple thoughts of the lessons I would actually teach (different than some of the notes above).

    I think it would be interesting to follow the history of the establishment of the order of the priesthood into what we see today. For instance, when were apostles called? When were high priests called? What was the first elder and second elder of the church. When did youth start receiving the Aaronic priesthood? When was the Aaronic priesthood organized as we see it now? What motivated that change (maybe not such an important question). When was the patrarch of the church called? When did patriaarchs become a stake calling? I would teach these because first I don’t know the answer to them, so I’d have to search (thought about trying to do some of that in the original post, but didn’t have time) and second because they are things we take for granted. We should all be able to answer when the 3-5 quorums of the seventy were called, but what’s the difference between a general and area authority? Lots of things we take for granted. Most importantly, I think the history is interesting to me, and my class would have to suffer through it.

    Another lesson I would be even more tempted to pursue is to study carefully the order of the priesthood. Study Alma 13 and D&C 84. What do we learn about the order of the priesthood and what do we learn by separating the Aaronic from the Melchizedek Priesthood? And then to make it more intersesting to me, what does it have to do with the endowment? How can I cautiously teach the priesthood in a temple context without overstepping certain bounds, but to entice people to pay more attention to the endowment?

    I think Brian’s point is the most important. The thing that you find interesting to teach is what you will most effectively teach, and you will likely find a good discussion, even with the nuts and bolts.

    It also may be that the nuts and bolts is interesting enough if you find women don’t feel like they know the priesthood organization. But ask yourself why you want to know, and go from there.

    • Earl thomas said

      Julie Have you all ready taught the Priesthood lesson an did you get answers to the questions you talked about in your reply on July 12th. I think it is a great way to teach, and I am running out of time to get this lesson together. Any help would be great. thanks

  7. Molly Bennion said

    I share your frustration. Few of the women in my ward will learn anything reading this lesson. As you say, it is skeletal. This lesson almost calls for a history lecture—rarely popular. So I’ll sneak in some history in small bits, flesh on the skeleton.
    I have come to believe people do come to Sunday church classes to learn something new but mostly to discuss and consider how to live better lives. So part of every RS lesson has to deal with women’s lives. I will likely spend a good deal of time this week contemplating the last 2 manual questions: “How can auxiliaries to the priesthood help strengthen individuals and families?” and “What role do you have as an individual in helping priesthood quorums and auxiliaries be successful?” I’m also interested in the question of why so formal an organization. Ours contrasts with many other Christian churches; what are its advantages and pitfalls? NathanG’s suggestion of priesthood’s relation to the endowment is also important; it’s delicate, but he is wise to remind us it deserves mention.

  8. Robert C. said

    I would focus on the scriptures in the lesson more than the manual itself (the scriptures are our official canon, the manual is something given to help motivate and guide us in feasting upon our canonical scriptures!). This way the lesson is grounded in something other than just history or others’ opinions. But try and read and ponder these scriptures very carefully and deeply, without worrying at first about any direct application. As you lose yourself in studying this way, you’ll start to see ways that these scriptures have application to your life. If you are constantly just worried about how to “apply” the lesson, you won’t ever lose yourself enough to really start receiving revelation/inspiration for the lesson—is my experience anyway….

    More specifically to this lesson, I think the 1 Corinthians 12 scripture regarding the body and its appendages would be a great way to begin the lesson, in order to begin thinking about the big picture, how the overall purpose of the church is to gather into one God’s people. This imagery casts D&C 84 and D&C 107 into a very interesting light, I think, where you can ask regarding each verse, questions like:

    * How does this verse/principle help in unifying us, as the body of Christ?

    * How does this verse/principle fit into the bigger picture?

    * How should the organizational principles being outlined here work, and what are the obstacles we often face when it comes to actually realizing this way things ought to be?

    * To what extent are the principles being outlined for the Church body applicable to our families and other organizations and communities more generally?

  9. joespencer said

    What Robert said.

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