Melchizedek priesthood (Latter Day Saints)

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In Mormonism, the Melchizedek priesthood ( /mɛlˈkɪzɪdɛk/),[1][2] also referred to as the high priesthood of the holy order of God[3] or the Holy Priesthood, after the Order of the Son of God,[4] is the greater of the two orders of priesthood, the other being the Aaronic priesthood.[5]

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]

In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints[edit]

In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), the largest Latter Day Saint denomination, priesthood holders meet at their ward or branch. Those who do not hold the priesthood are still invited and encouraged to attend with the elders quorum. However, priesthood duties can only be performed by those who are ordained.

Receiving the Melchizedek priesthood is considered to be a saving ordinance of the gospel in the LDS Church. A candidate for this ordination (worthy male member 18 years and older, regardless of how long they have been a member) 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.[7]

Shortly after the establishment of the church, the ordination of black people to the priesthood was prohibited; following a revelation received by then-church president Spencer W. Kimball, the prohibition was lifted in 1978.[8]


Leadership calling[i] Quorum[ii] or other organizational body Office
President of the Church and
Quorum of the First Presidency President: apostle[iv]

Counselors: high priest

President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles Quorum of the Twelve Apostles[v] Apostle[vi][vii]
Presidency of the Seventy Quorums of the Seventy[viii] Seventy[ix]
High priests quorum president and counselors[iii]

("stake presidency")

High priests quorum High priest
Stake high councilors[disputed ] Stake high council (12 members max.) High priest
Elders quorum president
and counselors[iii]
Elders quorum (96 members max.) Elder
Other leadership callings:
Temple president and counselors[iii] Temple High priest
Mission president and counselors[iii] Mission President: high priest

Counselors: elder

District president and counselors[iii] District of a mission Elder
Branch president and counselors[iii] Branch of a district, mission, or stake Elder


Office Minimum requirements Rights and responsibilities

(Offices of the priesthood have all the rights and responsibilities of their lower levels.)

  • Married in the temple
  • Male over the age of 18
Apostles receive the title "prophet, seer, and revelator", are considered "special witnesses" of Jesus Christ, and "hold all the keys necessary for governing the church".[10][9]
  • Male over the age of 18
Seventies are considered "especial witnesses"[x] of Jesus Christ, and work under the direction of the apostles. Members of the First and Second Quorums of Seventy also receive the sealing power which authorizes them to seal husbands to wives, and children to their parents, in any of the church's temples. Members of the other Quorums of the Seventy do not receive this as part of their calling.
Patriarch Patriarchs give what are called "patriarchal blessings" to Latter-day Saints. The patriarch is part of the high priests quorum; he is set apart for a particular stake but may also give patriarchal blessings to his own descendants, and in certain cases, to other church members.[12]
High priest
  • Male over the age of 18
High priests are responsible for the administration of stakes.
  • Male over the age of 18
Elders may confer the gift of the Holy Ghost and give blessings by the laying on of hands. 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.[13]

Table notes[edit]

  1. ^ 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.[9]
  2. ^ Holders of the priesthood are also 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.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g 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 more than two 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.
  4. ^ The President of the Church is the senior (longest-serving) apostle.
  5. ^ The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles may temporarily exceed 12 when the Quorum of the First Presidency is dissolved.
  6. ^ The President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles is the second senior (longest-serving) among all the apostles, including the First Presidency.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ The senior president of the Seventy is assigned to preside over the other six presidents.
  9. ^ The presidency of the Seventy must be from the first two Quorums of the Seventy.
  10. ^ The word especial is used in Latter-day Saint scripture to describe how a Seventy differs from all other officers in the church.[11]

Comparison with other denominations[edit]

In the theology, and 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. 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"[14] and it would have been given to the Israelites if they had been worthy of it and had not "hardened their hearts",[15] however righteous Nephites held the priesthood called after the order of the Son of God because of "their exceeding faith".[16][17]

Restoration account debate[edit]

Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery said they were visited by "an angel of God... clothed with glory",[18] who Cowdery and Smith identified as John the Baptist[19] and 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 as May 15, 1829. 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.[20] 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!"[21] 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.[22] 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.[23] In History of the Church, Roberts wrote, "there is no definite account of the [Melchizedek Priesthood restoration] event in the history of the Prophet Joseph, or, for matter of that, in any of our annals."[24]

On the other hand, some 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.[25] 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.[26]

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".[27] 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".[28] 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",[29][not specific enough to verify] 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".[30] 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.[25][verification needed][page needed]


  1. ^ – Melchizedek Retrieved 2015-08-22.
  2. ^ "Book of Mormon Pronunciation Guide"; Retrieved 2015-08-22.
  3. ^ Alma 4:20, Alma 13:8
  4. ^ D&C Section 107:3
  5. ^ D&C Section 107:4-5
  6. ^ D&C Section 107:2-4
  7. ^ "Priesthood Ordinances and Blessings". Retrieved 2022-05-22.
  8. ^ "Mormonism and racial issues/Blacks and the priesthood - FAIR". Retrieved 2022-05-22.
  9. ^ a b "Priesthood Keys". Retrieved 2022-09-04.
  10. ^ McConkie, Bruce R. (1979). Mormon Doctrine. Deseret Book. pp. 46–47. ISBN 0-88494-062-4.
  11. ^ The Doctrine and Covenants, Section 107:25
  12. ^ "Stake Patriarch"General Handbook (Salt Lake City, Utah: LDS Church) § 38.9.
  13. ^ See D&C 121:36-46
  14. ^ D&C 84:6
  15. ^ D&C 84:24; see also Exodus 19:5-6; Hebrews 12:20.
  16. ^ (Book of Mormon) Alma 13:10-14
  17. ^ Ballif, Jae R. (1992). "Melchizedek Priesthood, Powers and Offices". Encyclopedia of Mormonism. Vol. 2. Macmillan Publishing Company. Retrieved 2022-05-22.
  18. ^ Cowdery, Oliver (September 7, 1834). "Letter to William W. Phelps". Messenger and Advocate. pp. 48–49. Retrieved September 11, 2022.
  19. ^ Cannon, Brian Q. (1995–96). "Priesthood Restoration Documents". BYU Studies. 35 (4): 162–208. Retrieved 11 January 2023.
  20. ^ Roberts (1902, p. 176).
  21. ^ Covenant 128:20-21
  22. ^ (Roberts 1902, pp. 175–76).
  23. ^ (Roberts 1902, p. 176).
  24. ^ Roberts, B.H. History of the Church. pp. 40, footnote 1. Retrieved September 11, 2022.
  25. ^ a b Quinn, Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power.
  26. ^ Prince (1995, p. 116).
  27. ^ Phelps (1833, p. 84) (D&C 38:32)
  28. ^ Kirtland Revelation Book, p. 91.
  29. ^ Corrill, 18
  30. ^ (Booth 1831)