The Mormon Priesthood and Temple Rites

The Mormon Priesthood & Temple Rites

The Holy Priesthood

The Holy Priesthood is defined as the Power of God delegated to Man to act in His Name. The ancient Israelite priesthood consisted of Aaron (the brother of Moses) and the rest of the Levites; one tribe of Israel. Only the Levites (the descendants of Levi) were allowed to perform ordinances in the Temple of God in Jerusalem. They wore special white garments, and before they could enter the Temple to perform rites (ordinances) there they had to be washed with water and anointed with olive oil. The Washings and Anointings were symbolic of purity and sanctity. The Levites included:

*The High Priest
*The Priests
*The Levites

The High Priest wore very special garments. He entered the Holy of Holies (the most Holy part of the Temple where the Glory of the LORD dwelt) once a year, and performed ordinances there. The Priests also performed various rite and rituals (ordinances) and were assisted by men who were referred to simply as "Levites".

A Priest next to the High Priest

The purpose of the Temple of the LORD was for the Priesthood of God to offer sacrifices unto the LORD; in the form of animal sacrifices. The Israelites offered the firstborn among various animals as a sin-offering for their sins. The blood of these firstborn animals would be offered to atone for their sins; both individually and collectively. Christians (including Mormon Christians) believe that the purpose of the Temple of the LORD was to teach the Israelites about sin and the atonement for sin; that the LORD must be appeased by blood. Jesus Christ was the Spotless Lamb of God that came into the world to atone for the sins of the World; via His shed blood. He was the firstborn of God.

The Priests and Levites wore special white garments; a symbol of purity and sanctity. The other tribes of Israel could worship in the Temple, but they could not perform ordinances there. The other Israelites (the Jews included) were banned from the Priesthood because they did not valiantly fight on the side of Moses during Korah's rebellion. It says in the Book of Exodus that after Moses went up to the Mountain of the LORD, a man named Korah convinced the Israelites to rebel. He convinced Aaron to make a Golden Calf so they could worship it. When Moses came down from the mountain, he saw the rebellion. He said, "Who's on the Lord's side?" and immediately the Levites (the descendants of Levi--Moses was also a Levite) came to the side of Moses, and fought "valiantly" against Korah and the rebels. As a reward for their valiantly siding with Moses, they were rewarded with the Priesthood.

Cleon Skousen, the great Mormon storyteller, wrote:

"The Lord's preferred way is to have a kingdom of priests not a tribe of priests. The Lord would like to have every worthy person enjoy priesthood privileges, but when a while nation rejects the responsibilities of priesthood service as Israel had done, the Lord's only alternative was to build a firm core of responsible leadership in whatever group seemed most likely to carry the load. In a time of crisis it had met the test. Moses had stood at the gates of the camp right after the ugly incident of worshipping the golden calf and had cried out, 'Who is on the Lord's side? let him come unto me.' The scripture says: 'And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him.' Not another single tribe stepped forward. Now the Levites received their reward for that act of courageous commitment." (The Third Thousand Years, p.367)
In ancient times, only the Levites, one of the tribes of Israel, could hold the Priesthood of the LORD. The other Israelites tribes (known as "The 12 Tribes of Israel") could not hold it. The 12 Tribes were the descendants of the 12 sons of Israel. The Tribe of Joseph later split into two tribes; named after the two sons of Joseph, the grandsons of Israel; Ephraim and Manesseh. So, in all, there were 13 Tribes of Israel. The Tribe of Judah, from which the Jews came, could not hold it. Only the Levites could hold it. Moses was a Levite, and so was Aaron his brother who served as the High Priest. The High Priest would enter the Temple once a year, and sprinkle blood on the "Mercy Seat"; the center of the top of the Ark of the Covenant between the two Cherubim. The High Priest would offer blood to atone for the sins of the Israelites.

Gentiles (non-Israelites) were not allowed inside the Temple at all; only in a courtyard outside of the Temple called the "Court of the Gentiles". They could not even enter the Temple.

The High Priest, Priests, and Levites were called Qadeshiym; which means "Separated Out for a Special Purpose". In Latin the Hebrew word Qadeshiym is "Santos". In English and French it is "Saints". It simply means:


It does not mean "Superior", but "Special" and "Separated-Out for a Special Purpose". The Israelites were the Chosen People of the LORD. The Levites were the Chosen of the Chosen; the "Elect" of the LORD.

They were His "Saints".

The Israelite "Saints" were not "saints" like in the Catholic or Orthodox churches. They were not celebate. They were not monks and nuns. They were all men. They were all married, and had wives and children. They were not "preachers" or "pastors" like most churches have today. People did not pray to them after they died. They were not necessarily more "holy" than other Israelites! They were just expected to have a higher standard, and be "clean" from the world. They had a special duty and "calling". Their duty was to perform sacred ordinances in the Temple of the LORD in Jerusalem. This is what they did. Only the male Levites held the Priesthood. The female Levites were exempt.

There was another Priesthood mentioned in the Bible. It is called the "Order of Melchizedek". This is mentioned in Psalms 110:4 and Hebrews 1:17. Melchizedek is called "King of Salem, and priest of the Most High God." (Hebrews 1:1). The Order of Melchizedek is older than the Order of Aaron, and much more powerful. Jesus is called a "high priest after the Order of Melchizedek" (Hebrews 1:17). Mormons believe that Jesus shared His Priesthood with His Apostles, and that His apostles shared Jesus' Priesthood with others called "Elders". Mormons believe that Peter, James, and John, acting as Angels of the LORD, bestowed the Melchizedek Priesthood upon Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in 1829 as part of the "Restoration" of all things.

Peter, James, and John, as Angels, confirming the Melchizedek Priesthood (Jesus' Priesthood He had given them) upon Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in 1829

Mormons are "Latter-day Saints"; meaning the Qadeshiym of the latter-days; the modern days we now live in and the "last days" before the Second Coming of Christ. This is why the Church is named "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints".

Mormon Temples are NOT for the shedding of blood; whether animal or human. Jesus Christ offered "the final sacrifice for sin". However, Mormon Temples are for the purpose of performing divine Ordinances such as:

*Baptisms for the Dead

Endowments prepare us for death (the "other side of the veil") and the Resurrection of the Dead. It teaches us the "Signs and Tokens" we must know to pass-by the angels--who stand as sentinels--and return to the presence of the Father. Those who return to the Presence of the Father shall gain the highest reward in Heaven; which is called "EXALTATION". It means to be "exalted" and become "an heir of God and joint-heir with Christ"; to inherit all that Jesus has inherited from the Father. We "take out" Covenants (agreements) with God as part of the Endowment Ceremony. We covenant with Him to obey certain Laws, then He will bless us with certain earthly and heavenly rewards called "Blessings".

Sealings are ordinances that allow faithful husbands to be "sealed" to faithful wives, and children to be "sealed" to their parents. Without such Sealings, done by the "Sealing Power" that Jesus gave to Peter (Matthew 18:18), we must enter the eternities single and alone. With such sealings, faithful Latter-day Saints who endure to the end can be with their spouses and loved ones for all eternity.

Baptisms for the Dead are baptisms of living people done in the name of people who are dead. Dead bodies are not baptized in Mormon Temples! Living people are baptized "on behalf of" the dead (see 1 Corinthians 15:29). These baptisms allow people who have passed on "to the other side of the veil" the opportunity to ender the Kingdom of God; if they so choose. For those who have not had the opportunity to hear the Gospel in this life, one opporunity is granted them in the Afterlife. But if they reject the Gospel of Jesus Christ in mortal life, they have no opportunity again in the Afterlife. All men and women will have only one opportunity to hear and live the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The LDS Priesthood consists of two orders:

*The Aaronic Order
*The Melchizedek Order

The Aaronic Order is composed of deacons, teachers, priests, and bishops. In the Mormon Faith today these offices are held by boys and young men from 12 to about 19. Bishops must also be High Priests; which is a Melchizedek Order office. High Priests are older men; usually at least 40, but sometimes as young as 25. Most of them are over 50. Bishops are not "preachers" like in Protestant churches. They simply "oversee" local congregations called "Wards". All Mormons "preach" on Sunday at one time or another.

The Melchizedek Order is composed of Elders, High Priests, and Apostles. All active and worthy Mormon men are expected to hold the office of Elder after the age of 18. To go on a full-time mission (become a missionary) a Mormon male must be an Elder. Mormon females are exempt from the Priesthood, but may also become missionaries.

The LDS Priesthood is not anything like the Roman Catholic priesthood, or the Orthodox priesthood, or the "ministry" in Protestant churches! It is not a profession. It is not a vocation. Every active (faithful) male in the Mormon Faith is expected to "advance" through the various offices of the Priesthood from Deacon to Elder. One does not "study" for the Priesthood. One must merely be "worthy" of it (morally clean) and active in the Church. One must be male. Women are exempt from the Priesthood. The Priesthood in the Mormon Faith is like an Army; with soldiers and officers. The Mormon Priesthood consists of:


As in an army, officers are also soldiers, but soldiers are usually not also officers. In the Mormon Faith, all worthy males over the age of 13 are "Priesthood-holders". Those who have "pastorates" over others are called "Priesthood-officers" which include Branch Presidents, Presiding Elders, Bishops, Stake Presidents, Elder's Quorum Presidents, Deacon's Quorum Presidents, Teacher's Quorum Presidents, Mission Presidents, Area Presidents, Seventies, Apostles, Presiding High Priest of the High Priesthood (the President of the Church).

In the Mormon Faith, males need the Priesthood in order to go on missions (become missionaries) and to perform and receive sacred Higher Ordinances in Mormon Temples; like Sealings and Endowments. Females are exempt from such requirements. They may become missionaries, and receive the Higher Ordinances in Mormon Temples without the Priesthood. Mormon women have a "Relief Society"; which is their fellowship and service organization in the Mormon Faith.

When the Nauvoo Temple openned in 1846 (the first Mormon Temple which included Higher Ordinances), black Mormons could receive Endowments, Sealings, and perform baptisms for the Dead just like all Mormons could. In 1852, President Brigham Young banned black Mormons from the Temple altogether. He said this was because, as "Canaanites" (i.e. descendants of Canaan, the sons of Ham and his Cainite wife) they were also Cainites, and under the "Curse of Cain"; which was a denial of the Priesthood. Brigham Young taught that "Negroes" (the respectful term for black Africans at that time) were the "seed" (descendants) of Cain; the firstborn son of Adam and Eve. He taught that the "Mark of Cain" was a black skin and negroid features. He taught that the "Canaanites" (as he called black Africans) could not hold the Holy Priesthood until the "other children" of Adam first had the opportunity. Brigham Young said (in 1866):

"And when all the rest of the children of Adam have received their blessings in the Holy Priesthood, then that curse shall be removed from the seed of Cain, and they will come up and receive all the blessings which we now are entitled to." (Journal of Discourses 11:272)
Mormons believe the fulfillment of that occured on June 8th, 1978, with "The 1978 Revelation" by Church President Spencer W. Kimball.


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