High priest (Latter Day Saints)
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In most denominations of the Latter Day Saint movement, a high priest is an office of the priesthood within the Melchizedek priesthood. High priests are typically more experienced leaders within the priesthood. The term derives in part from the Epistle to the Hebrews, which describes Jesus as "a high priest after the order of Melchizedek" (5:10; see also 6:20). Movement founder Joseph Smith ordained the first high priests on June 3, 1831.
High priests are organized into quorums. The first president of a high priests quorum of the church was Smith's younger brother, Don Carlos Smith.
High priests in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), high priests are primarily responsible for the spiritual welfare of the members and the administration of local church units called wards and stakes.
Melchizedek priesthood holders in the church are ordained high priests when they become a member of a stake presidency, stake high council, or bishopric, "or when otherwise determined by the stake president". Ordinations are approved by the member's bishop and stake president and the common consent of the general priesthood membership in the stake. A man must hold the Melchizedek priesthood and hold the priesthood office of elder before he may become a high priest. Ordination is done by another high priest by the laying on of hands.
Like other priesthood offices in the LDS Church, high priests are organized into quorums. The high priests quorum is organized at the stake level, with the president of the quorum being the stake president. (In contrast, priesthood quorums for the offices of deacon, teacher, priest, and elder are organized at the ward level.) In consultation with the bishop, the stake president organizes a high priests "group" in each ward. Each group is provided with a group leader, who typically selects two assistants and a secretary to assist him. Assignments made to the group include home teaching and assisting adult males who are not yet elders prepare to receive the Melchizedek priesthood. High priests are also responsible for temple and family history work within a ward.
In a district, there is no high priests quorum. Men holding the office of high priest join the elders quorum of the branch they live in.
There are a number of positions in the LDS Church which may only be filled by a high priest. Among these are the stake president and his counselors, members of a stake high council, mission president, and member of a temple presidency. A bishop must be a high priest [unless he has a right-by-lineage to the calling (see D&C 107:69)]. Bishop's counselors are usually high priests, but there are some exceptions. (For example, the church does not require counselors in some young single adult wards to be ordained high priests.) Any high priest may become a member of the First Presidency, but in recent practice most members of the First Presidency have been apostles.
Since 1995, individuals ordained to the office of seventy are ordained first to the office of high priest.
- High priest, The Joseph Smith Papers (accessed December 28, 2011).
- "Ordinance and Blessing Policies", Handbook 1: Stake Presidents and Bishops (Salt Lake City, Utah: LDS Church, 2010) § 16.
- The last man to serve as a counselor in the First Presidency without first being ordained an apostle was J. Reuben Clark, though he was ordained an apostle during his tenure in the First Presidency in order to establish his apostolic seniority and thus determine his order of succession to the presidency of the church.
- High Priest, Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Macmillan, 1992.
- A Study of the History of the Office of High Priest , Lawson, John D., Masters Thesis Brigham Young University, 2006.