…even though I have been “ordained” one in the LDS church. This is because the modern church fails to understand the high priesthood (or Melchizedek Priesthood as it is commonly called). This post examines exactly what it means to be a High Priest and whether we have any of those in our midst today.
The standard belief in the Mormon church is that the restoration of the priesthood took place in two separate events: 1) John the Baptist restored the Aaronic (or lesser) Priesthood when he appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery on the banks of the Susquehanna River on May 15th, 1829. 2) Peter, James and John restored the Melchizedek Priesthood sometime in the following month–exact date unknown. It was at about this time that the term “Elder” was introduced into the church with Joseph being designated the “First Elder” and Oliver designated the “Second Elder”. We also witness that the Lord calls the church the “Church of Christ” as we can see from the original title page of the Book of Commandments which was an early pre-curser to our modern-day Doctrine and Covenants.
The seminal event leading to the restoration of the highest priesthood in the church happened at a conference held at the Morley Farm in Kirtland in June of 1831, two years after the visitations of John the Baptist, and Peter, James and John. This event is rarely, if ever, discussed in the LDS church. I had never heard about it until a year or so ago. The reason, I believe, is that when you understand what it means to have the highest priesthood, you realize that the church does not have it in their midst today.
There are numerous journal accounts of people who participated in the conference (I have not attempted to correct their grammar or spelling):
… About this time Solomon Came to see me and brought Zebedee Coltrin along he held some metings and wanted I should go to Kirtland with him we started the latter part of May got there by the Last of the month I lerned that on the fourth of June there was to be an indowment of some Elders.
As the 4th of June last was appointed for the sessions of the conference, it was ascertained, that that was the time specified, when the great and mighty work was to be commenced, and such was the confidence of some, that knowledge superceded their faith, and they did not hesitate to declare themselves perfectly assured that the work of miracles would commence at the ensuing conference.
With such strong assurances, and with the most elevated expectations, the conference assembled at the time appointed.
To give, if possible, energy to expectation, Smith, the day before the conference, professing to be filled with the spirit of prophecy, declared, that “not three days should pass away, before some should see their Savior, face to face.”
I saw Joseph Smith the Prophet when he first came to Kirland, and was with him in the first conference held in that place, which was in a small school house. When he arose in our midst he said that before the conference closed there were those present who should see the heavens open and bear record of the coming of the Son of Man.
Conference was opened by prayer and exortation by Joseph Smith Jr. the Revelator. After the business of the church was attended to according to the Covenants,
The Lord made manifest to Joseph that it was necessary that such of the elders as were considered worthy, should be ordained to the high priesthood.
The spirit of the Lord fell upon Joseph in an unusual manner. And [he] prophecied that John the Revelator was then among the ten tribes of Israel who had been lead away by Salmanaser, King of israel, to prepare them for their return, from their Long dispersion, to again possess the land of their fathers. He prophecied many more things that I have not written.
After he had prophecied, he laid his hands upon Lyman Wight to the High Priesthood after the holy order of God. And the Spirit fell upon Lyman and he prophecied concerning the coming of Christ.
Then Lyman Wight was ordained a High Priest. Joseph told him he should see the heavens opened, and after he was ordained he stood on his feet and testified that he could se the heavens open and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.
As we can see there are many credible accounts of this event.
Lyman was then given the privilege to ordain a majority of the 23 that day to the highest priesthood. By the way, we never hear of Lyman within the church because he didn’t follow Brigham Young (who was never ordained a high priest) to Utah. After Nauvoo, he started a community in Texas. He is a fascinating figure in Mormondom, especially considering the fact that he was the first one ordained at the conference to this highest priesthood, and actually ordained Joseph Smith to that highest priesthood! Here is his recollection of the event:
On the 4th of June 1831, a conference was held at Kirtland, <Ohio> represented by all the above mamed [named] branches; Joseph Smith our modern Prophet presided; and here I again saw the visible manifestations of the power of God as plain as could have been on the day of pentecost and here for the first time I saw the Melchisedec priesthood introduced into the church of Jesus Christ as anciently; whereunto I was ordained under the hands of Joseph Smith, and I then ordainded Joseph and Sidney and sixteen others such as he chose unto the same priesthood. The spirit of God was made manifest to the heeling of the sick, cast<ing> out devils, speaking in unknown tongues, discerning of spirits, and prophesying  with mighty power, After the two days the conference broke up receiving the revelation which appointed 28 elders their Mission to Missouri
In addition to Lyman, Harvey Whitlock, also was privileged to have the heavens opened and he testified of the coming of the Son of Man. Interestingly, this came after Harvey was seized upon by Satan and that diabolical power was rebuked by Joseph.
The historical record strongly indicates that this priesthood is very distinct and different from the priesthood conferred on Joseph and Oliver by Peter, James and John.
Joseph Smith said the following regarding the events that day at the Morley Farm:
“…the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood was manifested and conferred for the first time upon several of the Elders. It was clearly evident that the Lord gave us power in proportion to the work to be done, and strength according to the race set before us, and grace and help as our needs required.” (HC 1:175-177)
“The Melchizedek priesthood was then for the first time introduced, and conferred on several of the elders. In this chiefly consisted the endowment—it being a new order—and bestowed authority. However, some doubting took place among the elders, and considerable conversation was held on the subject. The elders not fairly understanding the nature of the endowments, it took some time to reconcile all their feelings.” (John Corrill, A Brief History of the Church of Christ of Latter Day Saints)
Parley P. Pratt wrote of the event in his autobiography as follows:
“Several were then selected by revelation, through President Smith, and ordained to the High Priesthood after the order of the Son of God; which is after the order of Melchizedek. This was the first occasion in which this priesthood had been revealed and conferred upon the Elders in this dispensation, although the office of an Elder is the same in a certain degree, but not in the fulness.”
Clearly, we have multiple witnesses testifying that this is a new order of things, an endowment of priesthood power upon worthy Elders. It is interesting to note that Martin Harris was ordained to this highest priesthood even though he wasn’t an elder at the time, he had only been previously ordained a priest. LDS scholars have had a hard time reconciling the fact that there truly is a priesthood higher than that which Peter, James and John restored. They have suggested that this was only the office of high priest instead of a new order.
From this event, the newly ordained high priests are called to go forth to Missouri to prepare to establish Zion, preaching the gospel along the way. Could it be that this priesthood is necessary for the establishment of Zion?
In Section 113 of the Doctrine and Covenants, Elias Higbee asks two questions of the Lord about Isaiah 52. Read these carefully as they are very instructive.
v7 Questions by Elias Higbee: What is meant by the command in Isaiah, 52d chapter, 1st verse, which saith: Put on thy strength, O Zion–and what people had Isaiah reference to?
v8 He had reference to those whom God should call in the last days, who should hold the power of priesthood to bring again Zion, and the redemption of Israel; and to put on her strength is to put on the authority of the priesthood, which she, Zion, has a right to by lineage; also to return to that power which she had lost.
v9 What are we to understand by Zion loosing herself from the bands of her neck; 2d verse?
v10 We are to understand that the scattered remnants are exhorted to return to the Lord from whence they have fallen; which if they do, the promise of the Lord is that he will speak to them, or give them revelation. See the 6th, 7th, and 8th verses. The bands of her neck are the curses of God upon her, or the remnants of Israel in their scattered condition among the Gentiles.
We have documented in previous posts how the Lord has told us directly that we have lost the fulness of the priesthood. Perhaps that explains why there is no attempt by the modern church to gather, or re-establish Zion. It takes the highest priesthood to administer the celestial law, and without it any attempts to establish Zion would be in vain. However, when the servants return with the POWER of Priesthood associated with being a high priest, then Zion can be redeemed and the Lord with speak to us, as prophesied in Isaiah. We can also conclude that Zion will not be redeemed without this Priesthood Power and efforts by individual or groups of individuals to establish Zion organically (although laudable) will not be the way in which Zion is ultimately established.
Ultimately, we know that Zion was not established and that the fulness had been lost as early as December 1834. Doubting and disputations let to some of those who were “called” at the Morley Farm, to ultimately not being “chosen” by the Lord–a subject for another day.
So the big question is: What makes this priesthood different from the priesthood restored by Peter, James and John?
ORDAINED OF GOD
The ordination to the highest priesthood comes from God himself.
“…he that is ordained OF GOD and sent forth, the same is appointed to be the greatest, not withstanding he is the least and the servant of all. Wherefore, he is possessor of all things; for all things are subject unto him, both in heaven and on the earth, the life and the light, the Spirit and the power, sent forth by the will of the Father through Jesus Christ his Son. But no man is possessor of all things except he is purified and cleansed from all sin.” D&C 50:26-28
At the Morley Farm, God identified through Joseph Smith who should be ordained unto this highest priesthood. It would appear that the spiritual manifestations received by Lyman and Joseph qualified them to act in behalf of God in ordaining those men.
Here is another amazing witness found in the JST, Genesis 14:25-33
And Melchizedek lifted up his voice and blessed Abram.
Now Melchizedek was a man of faith, who wrought righteousness; and when a child he feared God, and stopped the mouths of lions, and quenched the violence of fire.
And thus, having been approved of God, he was ordained an high priest after the order of the covenant which God made with Enoch,
It being after the order of the Son of God; which order came, not by man, nor the will of man; neither by father nor mother; neither by beginning of days nor end of years; but of God;
And it was delivered unto men by the calling of his own voice, according to his own will, unto as many as believed on his name.
For God having sworn unto Enoch and unto his seed with an oath by himself; that every one being ordained after this order and calling should have power, by faith, to break mountains, to divide the seas, to dry up waters, to turn them out of their course;
To put at defiance the armies of nations, to divide the earth, to break every band, to stand in the presence of God; to do all things according to his will, according to his command, subdue principalities and powers; and this by the will of the Son of God which was from before the foundation of the world.
And men having this faith, coming up unto this order of God, were translated and taken up into heaven.
And now, Melchizedek was a priest of this order; therefore he obtained peace in Salem, and was called the Prince of peace.
Did you catch that? This priesthood is unbelievably powerful. It can put at defiance the armies of nations, divide the earth, and break every band. It has the power to establish Zion and to be translated as was the City of Enoch.
This is why in the scriptures, the highest priesthood is said to be without father or mother– because it is not a patriarchal priesthood that the seed of Abraham have by right, rather this is being called and eventually chosen by God to become his sons and daughters.
“For this Melchizedek was ordained a priest after the order of the Son of God, which order was without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life. And all those who are ordained unto this priesthood are made like unto the Son of God, abiding a priest continually.” JST Hebrews 7:3
By the way, if you haven’t already noticed, great clarity is brought by the JST versions of these scriptures.
In an address by the Prophet Joseph on August 27, 1843, he expounded on Hebrews chapter 7 and discussed the three levels of priesthood. Here are some excerpts (HC 5:555):
“The power of the Melchizedek priesthood is to have the power of “endless lives;” for the everlasting covenant cannot be broken.”
“The law was given under Aaron for the purpose of pouring out judgments and destructions.”
“There are three grand orders of priesthood referred to here. 1st. The King of Shiloam. (Salem) had power and authority over that of Abraham, holding the key and the power of endless life.”
“What was the power of Melchizedek? ‘Twas not the Priesthood of Aaron which administers in outward ordinances, and the offering of sacrifices. Those holding the fullness of the Melchizedek Priesthood are kings and priests of the Most High God, holding the keys of power and blessings. In fact, that priesthood is a perfect law of theocracy, and stands as God to give laws to the people, administering endless lives to the sons and daughters of Adam.”
“How shall God come to the rescue of this generation? He will send Elijah the prophet. [notice the future tense] The law revealed to Moses in Horeb never was revealed to the children of Israel as a nation. Elijah shall reveal the covenants to seal the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers.”
“The anointing and sealing is to be called, elected and made sure.” [Note how this sealing has nothing to do with a marriage covenant]
“The Melchizedek Priesthood holds the right from the eternal God, and not by descent from father and mother; and that priesthood is as eternal as God Himself, having neither beginning of days nor end of life.”
“The 2nd Priesthood is Patriarchal authority. Go to and finish the temple, and God will fill it with power, and you will then receive more knowledge concerning this priesthood.”
“The 3rd is what is called the Levitical Priesthood, consisting of priests to administer in outward ordinance, made without an oath; but the Priesthood of Melchizedek is by an oath and covenant.”
As you can see, Joseph is identifying 3 levels of Priesthood:
Melchizedek (Son of God)
Patriarchal (Son of Moses or Son of Abraham)
Aaronic (Son of Aaron)
After the Lord had called High Priests it is interesting to note that he makes reference in the Doctrine & Covenants to the “Church of God.”
With Patriarchal authority it appears that the “Church of Christ” can be established and administered prior to the living of the celestial law, or consecration.
Historically, when the higher law was rejected, the Lord saw fit to take even the Patriarchal authority out of the church.
And the Lord said unto Moses, Hew thee two other tables of stone, like unto the first, and I will write upon them also, the words of the law, according as they were written at the first on the tables which thou brakest; but it shall not be according to the first, for I will take away the priesthood out of their midst; therefore my holy order, and the ordinances thereof, shall not go before them; for my presence shall not go up in their midst, lest I destroy them.
But I will give unto them the law as at the first, but it shall be after the law of a carnal commandment; for I have sworn in my wrath, that they shall not enter into my presence, into my rest, in the days of their pilgrimage. (Exodus 34:1,2; see also D&C 84:18-27)
As I have written about before, there are many parallels between Joseph and Moses.
In summary, we would have tremendous power in the church today if we had the High Priests after the order of Melchizedek. We would have the fulness. We would be living, or striving to live the celestial law. As it stands, we have the preparatory gospel, and are awaiting for the servants to return, to restore the priesthood power which we have lost. With the preparatory gospel we retain the keys of the ministering of angels that will allow that restoration to take place. Also, at that time the curses around our necks will be broken and the Lord will speak to us again. Praise the Lord for his marvelous work and wonder which is about to come forth.
No, I am not a High Priest…yet.
For now I am searching, watching and waiting.