Melchizedek priesthood (Latter Day Saints)

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In Mormonism, the Melchizedek priesthood ( /mɛlˈkɪzɪdɛk/)[1][2] is the greater of the two orders of priesthood, the other being the Aaronic priesthood. The Patriarchal priesthood which is sometimes confused as a separate priesthood was explained by Boyd K. Packer, an apostle in the largest denomination in Mormonism, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), as:

The patriarchal order is not a third, separate priesthood. Whatever relates to the patriarchal order is embraced in the Melchizedek Priesthood. "All other authorities or offices in the church are appendages to [the Melchizedek] priesthood." (D&C 107:5.) The patriarchal order is a part of the Melchizedek Priesthood which enables endowed and worthy men to preside over their posterity in time and eternity.[3]

The Melchizedek priesthood is also referred to as the high priesthood of the holy order of God[4] and the Holy Priesthood, after the Order of the Son of God,[5] or simply as the high priesthood.

In Mormonism, unlike some other Christian denominations, the Melchizedek priesthood is thought to be held by common mortals and not solely by either pre-Aaronic priests such as Melchizedek, or Jesus alone, as most protestants interpret the Epistle to the Hebrews. According to Joseph Smith, the name of this priesthood became Melchizedek "because Melchizedek was such a great high priest" and "to avoid the too frequent repetition" of the "name of the Supreme Being".[6] Smith taught that this priesthood was on the earth since Adam received it and conferred it upon his sons Abel and Seth, and it was conferred successively upon the early biblical patriarchs. Through it Enoch led his people to become so righteous and obedient that they qualified to be translated as the City of Enoch. Noah held this priesthood, as did Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It remained on earth until the time of Moses, who received it "under the hand of his father-in-law, Jethro"[7] and it would have been given to the Israelites if they had been worthy of it and had not "hardened their hearts".[8]

Restoration account[edit]

Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery said they were visited by John the Baptist, who laid his hands on their head and gave them the Aaronic priesthood; Smith described the event in detail and gave an exact date when it happened. In contrast, he never gave a description of any vision in which he saw an angel separately confer the Melchizedek priesthood. However, by the turn of the 20th century, Latter Day Saint theologians believed that such a separate ordination by angels had occurred prior to the organization of the Church of Christ on April 6, 1830.[9] This was largely because the early church organization contained the office of elder, which at least by 1835 was considered an office of the Melchizedek priesthood. As evidence for such a pre-organization angelic conferral, writers referred to a revelation in which Smith said he heard "The voice of Peter, James, and John in the wilderness between Harmony, Susquehanna county, and Colesville, Broome county, on the Susquehanna river, declaring themselves as possessing the keys of the kingdom, and of the dispensation of the fulness of times!"[10] Smith and Cowdery were visited by the three angels in 1829 and that they conferred the Melchizedek priesthood in the same way John the Baptist had conferred the Aaronic priesthood. However, the official church history, supervised or written by Smith, states that "the authority of the Melchizedek priesthood was manifested and conferred for the first time upon several of the Elders" during a General Conference in early June 1831.[11] When Smith's official history was first published in 1902, the compiler B.H. Roberts thought that this was a mistake, because it would not be consistent with the common Mormon belief that the priesthood had been conferred prior to the church's founding in 1830.[12]

On the other hand, some recent Mormon historians accept Smith's history as correct and consistent with other historical records showing that other Mormons present at the conference dated the restoration of the Melchizedek priesthood to 1831.[13] This conference had been a very significant event in the early church history, coming soon after the conversion of Sidney Rigdon, who believed that Mormon missionaries lacked the necessary power to adequately preach the gospel.[14] Thus, in January 1831, Smith issued a revelation where he wrote that after Mormons relocated to Kirtland, Ohio, they would "be endowed with power from on high" and "sent forth".[15] In a revelation given to an individual, Smith assured the man that "at the conference meeting he [would] be ordained unto power from on high".[16] One of Smith's associates that was present at the conference expressed the view that this ordination "consisted [of] the endowment--it being a new order--and bestowed authority",[17] and later that year, an early convert who had left the church claimed that many of the Saints "have been ordained to the High Priesthood, or the order of Melchizedek; and profess to be endowed with the same power as the ancient apostles were".[18] In 1835, the historical record was muddled a bit when the first edition of the Doctrine and Covenants altered pre-1831 revelations to make a distinction between the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods, and to classify the offices of elder and apostle as part of the Melchizedek priesthood.[13]

In the LDS Church[edit]

In the LDS Church, the largest Latter Day Saint denomination, the Melchizedek priesthood is one of two governing priesthoods, which is typically given as a matter of course to worthy male members 18 years and older. No exact rule exists about how much time a man must be a member first; he may receive this priesthood as soon as local church leaders feel he is prepared. Ordination is based on the recipient's age and worthiness and does not require any specific training or aptitude. A candidate for this ordination is interviewed and often counseled to study the 84th, 107th, and 121st sections of the Doctrine and Covenants to begin to understand the oath and covenant of the priesthood, the covenant a person makes with God when he receives the Melchizedek priesthood. The candidate is also usually asked to stand in a gathering of the members of the church to be publicly accepted as being worthy of ordination. For male Latter-day Saints, receiving the Melchizedek priesthood is considered to be a saving ordinance of the gospel.

Shortly after the establishment of the church, the ordination of blacks to the priesthood was prohibited. Following a revelation to then-church president Spencer W. Kimball, the prohibition was lifted in 1978.[19]

An important purpose of giving the Melchizedek priesthood to every adult Latter-day Saint man is to allow fathers and husbands to be able to give priesthood blessings of healing, comfort, counsel, and strength to their children and wife, and to preside over the family unit in a righteous manner.[20] Many Latter-day Saint fathers give a priesthood blessing to their children before the start of each new school year or before an important life event such as marriage. Each Melchizedek priesthood bearer, regardless of priesthood office, is encouraged to give priesthood blessings when called upon by others.


Leadership callings[edit]

A leadership calling includes the responsibility of holding the "keys" to preside over and direct a jurisdiction, ordinance, or activity of the work of the priesthood.

A president typically chooses two counselors whom he would like to serve with him (however on rare occasions there may be only one counselor or three counselors, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles is presided over by a single president, and the Presidency of the Seventy consists of seven presidents equal in authority). Each of the counselors is given a precedence, for instance, "first counselor" and "second counselor". The counselors serve under the direction of the president and share in his responsibilities, and the president may assign each counselor to handle certain areas of responsibility. The president bears the sole burden of being the final arbiter of decisions, but he is encouraged to receive advice from his counselors and pay close attention to their opinions and insights. When the president is released, the counselors are also released. Usually, a secretary is also called by the president to serve, but he is not considered a part of the presidency.

Leadership calling Minimum qualifications Rights and responsibilities
President of the Church and
President must be an apostle[i]

Counselors must be high priests

Preside over and direct the entire church
President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles Must be an apostle[ii][iii] Preside over and direct the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, assist in directing the church
Presidency of the Seventy All must be seventies[iv] Preside over all Quorums of the Seventy[v]
Area president and counselors All must be seventies[vi][vii] Preside over and direct a geographical region ("area") of the church
Temple president and counselors All must be high priests Preside over and direct the operation of a temple
Stake president and counselors All must be high priests Preside over and direct a stake of the church
Stake high councilors All must be high priests Assist the stake presidency in governing the stake
Mission president and counselors President must be a high priest

Counselors must be elders

Preside over and direct a mission of the church and the full-time missionaries in the mission
District president and counselors All must be elders Preside over and direct a district of a mission
Branch president and counselors All must be elders Preside over and direct a branch of a district or stake
Elders quorum president
and counselors
All must be elders[21] Preside over and direct an elders quorum[21]


Holders of the priesthood are organized into quorums. The quorums are a brotherhood where members of the quorum assist each other, teach one another, and delegate particular responsibilities to individuals or committees.

Quorum Description
Quorum of the First Presidency 3; President of the Church, 1st counselor, and 2nd counselor[viii]
Quorum of the Twelve Apostles 12;[ix] President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles,[ii][iii] 11 other apostles
Quorums of the Seventy 70; First and Second Quorums are general authorities, Third through Twelfth Quorums serve in specific areas of the world
High priests quorums No maximum; consist of stake presidencies, high councilors, patriarchs, bishoprics,[x] temple presidencies, and mission presidents
Elders quorums 96; include high priests not in the stake high priests quorums, with all adult men generally invited to attend


In the LDS Church, there are different offices within the Melchizedek priesthood. Although the holders of these priesthood offices hold the same Melchizedek priesthood, their assigned rights and responsibilities vary according to their priesthood office.

Office Minimum requirement to be ordained to office Rights and responsibilities
Apostle Holder of the Melchizedek priesthood, married in the temple Hold the title "prophet, seer, and revelator", are "special witnesses" of Jesus Christ; administer the affairs of the church[22]

Apostles may ordain persons to all other offices and callings in the church, and hold the rights to officiate in all responsibilities and duties of the priesthood, including the sealing power.

Seventy Holder of the Melchizedek priesthood "Especial[xi] witnesses" of Jesus Christ; work under the direction of the apostles
Patriarch Holder of the Melchizedek priesthood, married in the temple, has received a patriarchal blessing, at least 55 years old[24] Are set apart to give patriarchal blessings to Latter-day Saints in a particular stake; may also give patriarchal blessings to their own descendants, and in certain cases, to other church members[24]

Patriarchs retain the priesthood office of patriarch for life.[24]

High priest Holder of the Melchizedek priesthood Serve in a stake presidency, high council, bishopric,[x] temple presidency, as a mission president, or as a counselor in the First Presidency

High priests may ordain other high priests and elders.

Elder Priest in the Aaronic priesthood, at least 18 years old May confer the gift of the Holy Ghost; give blessings by the laying on of hands, serve in an elders quorum presidency, or serve as a counselor in a mission presidency

Elders may ordain other elders, and hold all the rights of the Aaronic priesthood.

Hierarchy summary[edit]

General authorities
Quorum of the First Presidency:
President of the Church, 1st counselor, and 2nd counselor
Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, 12 apostles total in the Quorum
First and Second Quorums of the Seventy:
Seven presidents of the Seventy,[v] 140 seventies total in the Quorums
Local authorities
Third through Twelfth Quorums of the Seventy ("area seventies")[vi][vii]
Temple presidencies:
Temple president, 1st counselor, and 2nd counselor (for each presidency)
High priests quorums ("stakes"):
President, 1st counselor, 2nd counselor, high councilors, patriarch, and bishoprics[x] (no maximum number of high priests in each quorum)

Mission presidencies:
Mission president, 1st counselor, and 2nd counselor (for each presidency)
District presidencies:
District president, 1st counselor, and 2nd counselor (for each presidency)
Branch presidencies:
Branch president, 1st counselor, and 2nd counselor (for each presidency)
Elders quorums:
Elders quorum president, 1st counselor, and 2nd counselor, 96 elders or high priests total in each quorum


  1. ^ The President of the Church is the senior (i.e., longest serving) apostle.
  2. ^ a b The President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles is the second senior (i.e., longest serving) among all the apostles, including the First Presidency.
  3. ^ a b If the President of the Twelve is serving in the First Presidency, or is unable to perform the duties due to health concerns, an acting president is called. This is typically the next most senior quorum member.
  4. ^ The presidency of the Seventy must be from the first two Quorums of the Seventy.
  5. ^ a b The senior president of the Seventy is assigned to preside over the other six presidents.
  6. ^ a b Area presidencies are usually from the First or Second Quorums of the Seventy, with the most recent exception, beginning in April 2022, being the Europe East Area.
  7. ^ a b In the early 2000s, there were three apostles who served as area presidents: L. Tom Perry (Europe), Dallin H. Oaks (Philippines), and Jeffrey R. Holland (Chile).
  8. ^ Circumstances have occasionally required additional counselors.
  9. ^ The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles may temporarily exceed 12 when the Quorum of the First Presidency is dissolved.
  10. ^ a b c In order to be called to the Aaronic priesthood office of bishop, a man must either be a literal descendant of Aaron or, more commonly, be "a high priest of the Melchizedek Priesthood".[25]
  11. ^ The word especial is used in Latter-day Saint scripture to describe how a Seventy differs from all other officers in the church.[23]


  1. ^ – Melchizedek Retrieved 2015-08-22.
  2. ^ "Book of Mormon Pronunciation Guide"; Retrieved 2015-08-22.
  3. ^ Joseph Smith, Joseph Fielding Smith (ed.), Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p.323.
  4. ^ Alma 4:20, 13:8
  5. ^ D&C 107:3
  6. ^ D&C 107:2-4
  7. ^ D&C 84:6
  8. ^ D&C 84:24; see also Exodus 19:5-6; Hebrews 12:20.
  9. ^ Roberts (1902, p. 176).
  10. ^ Covenant 128:20-21
  11. ^ (Roberts 1902, pp. 175–76).
  12. ^ (Roberts 1902, p. 176).
  13. ^ a b Quinn, Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power.
  14. ^ Prince (1995, p. 116).
  15. ^ Phelps (1833, p. 84) (D&C 38:32)
  16. ^ Kirtland Revelation Book, p. 91.
  17. ^ Corrill, 18
  18. ^ (Booth 1831)
  19. ^ Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research (FAIR) wiki
  20. ^ See D&C 121:36-46
  21. ^ a b Apostles, Elder D. Todd Christofferson Of the Quorum of the Twelve. "The Elders Quorum". Retrieved 2022-04-16.
  22. ^ McConkie, Bruce R. (1979). Mormon Doctrine. Deseret Book. pp. 46–47. ISBN 0-88494-062-4.
  23. ^ The Doctrine and Covenants, Section 107:25
  24. ^ a b c "Stake Patriarch"General Handbook (Salt Lake City, Utah: LDS Church) § 38.9.
  25. ^ Doctrine & Covenants 107:17