Aaronic priesthood (Latter Day Saints)
The Aaronic priesthood (// air-RON-ik; also called the Priesthood of Aaron or the Levitical priesthood) is the lesser of the two (or sometimes three) orders of priesthood recognized in the Latter Day Saint movement. The others are the Melchizedek priesthood and the rarely recognized Patriarchal priesthood. Unlike the Melchizedek priesthood, which is modeled after the authority of Jesus and the Apostles, or the Patriarchal priesthood, which is modeled after the authority of Abraham, the Aaronic priesthood is modeled after the priesthood of Aaron the Levite, the first high priest of the Hebrews, and his descendents. The Aaronic priesthood is thought to be a lesser or preparatory priesthood and an "appendage" of the more powerful Melchizedek priesthood. Practically, the leadership of the Aaronic priesthood, such as the Presiding Bishop, are administrative and financial agents of the church. Aaronic priesthood holders ages 12–18 prepare, bless, and administer the sacrament, collect fast offerings, assist in home teaching, and occasionally perform baptisms.
Latter Day Saints believe that ancient prophets and apostles conferred the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods directly upon Joseph Smith, Jr. and Oliver Cowdery on May 15, 1829. The conferral of the Aaronic priesthood on Smith and Cowdery is recorded in Joseph Smith—History as follows:
"[W]e ... 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 [The Book of Mormon].... 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, saying:
"Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah, I confer the Priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; and this shall never be taken again from the earth until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness.
"He said this Aaronic Priesthood had not the power of laying on hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, but that this should be conferred on us hereafter; and he commanded us to go and be baptized, and gave us directions that I should baptize Oliver Cowdery, and that afterwards he should baptize me.
"Accordingly we went and were baptized. ...
"The messenger who visited us on this occasion and conferred this Priesthood upon us, said that his name was John, the same that is called John the Baptist in the New Testament, and that he acted under the direction of Peter, James and John, who held the keys of the Priesthood of Melchizedek, which Priesthood, he said, would in due time be conferred on us, and that I should be called the first Elder of the Church, and he (Oliver Cowdery) the second. ...
"Immediately on our coming up out of the water after we had been baptized, we experienced great and glorious blessings from our Heavenly Father. No sooner had I baptized Oliver Cowdery, than the Holy Ghost fell upon him, and he stood up and prophesied many things which should shortly come to pass. And again, so soon as I had been baptized by him, I also had the spirit of prophecy, when, standing up, I prophesied concerning the rise of this Church, and many other things connected with the Church, and this generation of the children of men. We were filled with the Holy Ghost, and rejoiced in the God of our salvation."
Role within the LDS Church
In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), the Aaronic priesthood has taken on a role as a source of training, leadership and service for adolescent boys and new converts. It is often called a "preparatory priesthood." Holders of the Aaronic priesthood whom the church considers worthy are advanced to an office in the Melchizedek priesthood as a matter of course around the age of 18, or in the case of adult converts, after approximately a year of active church membership.
The Aaronic priesthood is open only to men and boys, twelve years old or older, who are considered worthy after a personal interview with their bishop. Requirements for worthiness include abstaining from all extra-marital sexual practices, following the Word of Wisdom (a code requiring abstinence from drinking alcohol, smoking, and consumption of coffee and tea), and attending church services, among other requirements.
With the exception of bishop, the offices of the Aaronic priesthood are organized primarily by age, and an adolescent boy will automatically be ordained to the next office if found worthy upon reaching the appropriate age. Seldom do those who are old enough stall their advancement in the priesthood though this has occurred before. The conferral and ordination to an office in the Aaronic priesthood is performed by the "laying on of hands" by a Priest or by those holding the Melchizedek priesthood.
With the exception of bishop Aaronic priesthood holders of the same office are organized into a quorum led by a president and counselors within each quorum. The president of the Priests Quorum is the bishop or branch president of the congregation. Each ward has one or more quorums of each office of the priesthood, if there are young men in that age group among the membership.
The church-wide titular head of the Aaronic priesthood is the Presiding Bishop. However, because the Aaronic priesthood is composed primarily of the youth of the church, the presidency of the Young Men organization supervises much of the church-wide organization involving the Aaronic priesthood.
Offices and quorums of the Aaronic priesthood in the LDS Church
|Office||Minimum requirements to be ordained||Rights and responsibilities||Name of quorum organization||Maximum number in quorum|
|Bishop||Married adult male; high priest in Melchizedek priesthood||See Bishop (Latter Day Saints)||No quorum of bishops; bishop is president of the Priests Quorum and a member of the stake High Priests Quorum|
|Priest||Baptized 16-year-old male||Bless the sacrament; baptize; give others the Aaronic priesthood and ordain others to the offices of priest, teacher and deacon; all rights of a teacher||Priests Quorum||48|
|Teacher||Baptized 14-year-old male||Prepare the sacrament; home teaching; all rights of a deacon||Teachers Quorum||24|
|Deacon||Baptized 12-year-old male||Keys of the ministering of angels; pass the sacrament to the congregation; collect fast offerings; other duties as assigned by bishop||Deacons Quorum||12|
- Note: when a Latter-day Saint male turns 18 he is encouraged to become an elder of the church, which is an office of the Melchizedek priesthood yet still holds the authority of the Aaronic priesthood.
- D&C 107: 14
- "...concerned principally with church finances and administration." From "Aaronic priesthood." Encyclopædia Britannica. 14 January 2007.
- Joseph Smith—History 1:68
- Hartley, William G. (Spring 1996). "From Men to Boys: LDS Aaronic Priesthood Offices, 1829–1996". Journal of Mormon History 22 (1): 78–134.
- LDS.org - Aaronic Priesthood. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
- Aaronic Priesthood. LightPlanet > World Religion and Family Resources.
- Exodus 28 Bible Gateway
- Leviticus 1 Bible Gateway
- Hebrews 5 Bible Gateway
- Aaronic Priesthood, The Joseph Smith Papers (accessed May 14, 2012)