Monday, January 2, 2012
Fullness of Priesthood
I received the following in an email:
"As I'm re-reading The Second Comforter I'm trying to clarify in my mind the issue of power in the priesthood and ordination under God's hand. Our first trip to the veil is when we have our Calling & Election made sure. Nephi's example (son of Helaman) indicates that at that time we are given power in the priesthood - sealing power. This is included in the fullness of the priesthood. But you have also made the clear arguments that (1) we do not see the Lord at this time - that is part of receiving the Second Comforter; (2) the fullness of the priesthood and its inherent powers are only received of God, under His hand. I'm sure it's possible to be ordained under the hand of the Lord without seeing Him, but nowhere do I find an indication that this is what happens at one's C&E - only that you hear a voice from heaven covenanting and promising. Are you able to share anything that could clarify this for me? I'm happy to read it on your blog if you wish."
This is a topic I've never attempted to straighten out. It is marred by many errors in traditional understanding, and almost impossible to recover because of the vocabulary we use now. We have become accustomed to speaking about priesthood using terms we think we understand. Therefore, when the topic arises the first problem is that we speak about something not well developed, using terms we think we understand, but employing incorrect meanings.
The result is that I've used the term but haven't bothered defining it. The closest I've come to providing anything is the Tenth Parable in Ten Parables. I've also used the concluding chapters of :Beloved Enos to give an overview, without changing the terms we are all accustomed to using.
In the "big picture" there are three levels of priesthood discussed by Joseph Smith. He uses the terms "Aaronic" (which includes Levitical) for one, Melchizedek for another, and Patriarchal for the third. In the D&C there is a revelation stating the church has two priesthoods. (D&C 107: 1.) Since the church claims to possess these two because of Section 107, and since Joseph used the term "Patriarchal Priesthood" to identify a third, I have used this category to explain what is set out in Beloved Enos; then used it further to develop the topics in Passing the Heavenly Gift.
Forget the nomenclature for a moment (because it is not as important as the underlying reality), and no matter what term you use, recognize there are three levels of priesthood. There are three members of the Godhead. There is a different member of the Godhead associated with three levels of salvation, three levels of Divine ministration, and correspondingly three levels of priesthood. There is a priesthood that belongs to the Telestial order, or the world where we presently live. There is a priesthood that belongs to the Terrestrial order, or this world in its Paradisaical state during the Millennium. There is a priesthood that belongs to the Celestial order, or the final redeemed state which men hope to inherit in the Father's Kingdom. Read Section 76 and you will see these set out as conditions of glory. Then take the conditions and associate a priesthood with each. If you do that, you have a better grasp of the idea of "fullness of the priesthood."
There are many problems with how we discuss this topic. I have made no attempt to challenge our current vocabulary, or the definitions we use with it. I've just accepted it and tried to set out the things I know to be true using the limited and accepted definitions we currently employ.
The Patriarchal Priesthood is not defined in scripture. We think the office of Patriarch in the church is what is meant by that. Or, alternatively, we teach that when you are sealed in the temple you acquire the Patriarchal Priesthood because you become a father within your family and that is kind of the meaning. Joseph made a remark which referred to finishing the Nauvoo Temple, and then going into the Temple and receiving the Patriarchal Priesthood. I've found it useful to refer to this most poorly understood form of priesthood to name and define it the third level of priesthood. I can make a persuasive argument to do so. I think it offers a rather elegant solution to our current vocabulary problems. But I won't do that in this post.
The most important point is that there is priesthood which exists, but is not contained within or conferred by the church. It comes from one source - the Father. To receive that, read the Tenth Parable and you will have a description of how it unfolds. The Son is necessarily involved. He is the gatekeeper, who alone decides if the person is going to qualify. Then the Son takes it as His work, or His ministry, to bring a person before the Father. However, the ministry of the Son can take many years, and is designed to cure what is wrong, fix all that is broken, remove all that is impure, in the candidate. Only when the Son can vouch for the individual is he brought before the Father. It is the Father who confers and ordains a man to the highest priesthood.
I've left these topics alone because there is something much more important than having me write about them. The first step along the path is to make it through the veil. Not the veil in a Temple, or in a rite offered by men to one another. We must be brought through the veil back into the Lord's presence. That is the step which stops most of our progress. By and large we don't believe it possible. We make no attempt because we think it is not available, or we should not be trying to become more than our leaders, or we are not qualified, or some other false teaching which hedges up our progress. I've focused on that topic alone. If I can bring a person to have faith to approach the Lord, the Lord will tell them all things they need to do thereafter. He will work with them to bring them into possession of all they need for Eternal Lives. That is His ministry. Mine is but to point to Him.
I can testify the Lord continues to have a ministry. I can also testify it includes bringing you to a point of understanding that enables you to repent of your generation's sins and come before the Father. It is happening today, just as anciently.
Joseph Smith's ministry offered mankind an opportunity to have the ancient order restored. Not just a New Testament church. In the beginning there was one, unified priesthood. There were not three. There was one. It was called the Holy Order. Later it got several additive descriptors, including the Holy Order after the Son of God; or Holy Order after the Order of Enoch; or Holy Order after the Order of Melchizedek. We think we have that in the church today. We think that is what we give to Elders when we first ordain them. But Joseph Smith could not confer that on another person. It requires God. Through Joseph we were offered an opportunity to receive it, but we were more interested in having a church than the original Holy Order.
It was always necessary to restore the Holy Order-- the original fullness. That must be here before the Second Coming. As soon, however, as the matter is fully set out, men will immediately begin to imitate and pretend to things because of pride, ignorance or vanity. In fact, the more readily it is explained in detail, the more often there will be those who falsely claim to have power they were never given by God. So I have confined what I've written to the first leg of the journey, and testified to the possible return to the presence of the Son. That is a precaution, and is designed to keep the message focused on saving souls. For the rest, I leave it to the Lord's ministry to inform the disciple of what then must occur.
I believe at some point there will be a more public declaration of the fullness of the priesthood. But at the present, I think the greatest problem lies in connecting men back to angels, then to the Lord. When they have reached that point, the Lord will take them further.
Sealing power is part of higher priesthood, but men suppose God's word alone is enough. No power comes from heaven without faith. There is always an apprenticeship. There is always further sacrifice required of the student. No one comes to the point in an instant, but increases by degrees in their trust with our God. You will find that in every prophet's life.
Show me a man who has entered into the Father's presence and I will testify that he has a fullness. But show me any man, no matter what position or keys he claims to possess, who has not entered into the Father's presence, and I will testify he has not yet received a fullness. No matter what keys he has, he cannot possess the fullness. For that, the Father has a role He is required to fulfill. Hence the saying by Joseph that no man has seen the Father but He has born record of the Son. The question to ponder is what it means for the Father to bear record of the Son. Therein lies a great key.