Priesthood: The Government of God
"To define all the laws of the priesthood would be impossible, for it is
living power, not a dead letter, and although these instructions may be of
general use, the living priesthood must regulate its own affairs."
-- JOHN TAYLOR
WHAT IS PRIESTHOOD?
PRIESTHOOD, THE GOVERNMENT OF GOD--What is priesthood? Without circumlocution, I shall briefly answer that it is the government of God, whether on the earth or in the heavens, for it is by that power, agency, or principle that all things are upheld governed on the earth and in the heavens, and by that power that all things are upheld and sustained. It governs all things--it directs all things--it sustains all things--and has to do with all things that God and truth are associated with. It is the power of God delegated to intelligences in the heavens and to men on the earth; and when we arrive in the celestial kingdom of God, we shall find the most perfect order and harmony existing, because there is the perfect pattern, the most perfect order of government carried out, and when or wherever those principles have been developed in the earth, in proportion as they have spread and been acted upon, just in that proportion have they produced blessings and salvation to the human family. And when the government of God shall be more extensively adopted, and when Jesus' prayer, that he taught his disciples is answered, and God's kingdom comes on the earth, and his will is done here as in heaven, then, and not till then, will universal love, peace, harmony, and union prevail.--MS, 9:321, November 1, 1847.
THE PRIESTHOOD TO DEVELOP THE ORDER OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD--The priesthood is placed in the church for this purpose, to dig, to plant, to nourish, to teach correct principles, and to develop the order of the kingdom of God, to fight the devils, and maintain and support the authorities of the church of Christ upon the earth. It is our duty all to act together to form one great unit--one great united phalanx, having sworn allegiance to the kingdom of God; then everything will move on quietly, peaceably, and easily, and then there will be very little trouble.--JD, 9:14, April 6, 1861.
THE PRIESTHOOD IN THE HEAVENS--There is a priesthood in the heavens, and we have the same priesthood on the earth, but there should be a closer communion between the priesthood on the earth and the priesthood in the heavens; it is desirable that we should be brought into closer proximity; we want to be advancing as Enoch advanced.--JD, 25:307, October 6 and 7, 1884.
POWER IN THE PRIESTHOOD--It is the intercourse and communication of the priesthood in heaven, that gives power, life, and efficacy to the living priesthood on the earth, and without which they would be as dead and withered branches: and if any man has life, or power of God communicated through the regular channels of the priesthood, both in heaven and on earth; and to seek it without, would be like a stream seeking to be supplied with water when its fountain was dried up, or like a branch seeking to obtain virtue when the trunk of the tree was cut off by the root: and to talk of a church without this is to talk of a thing of naught--a dried fountain, a dead and withered tree.-- MS, 9:323, November 1, 1847.
The power manifested by the priesthood is simply the power of God, for he is
the head of the priesthood, with Jesus as our President and great High Priest;
and it is upon this principle that all the works of God have been accomplished,
whether on the earth or in the heavens; and any manifestation of power through
the priesthood on the earth is simply a delegated power from the priesthood in
the heavens, and the more the priesthood on the earth becomes assimilated with
and subject to the priesthood in the heavens the more of this power shall we
WHY THE PRIESTHOOD?
AN ORGANIZED POWER TO BUILD ZION--Now, God has ordained his holy priesthood upon the earth with presidents, apostles, bishops, high councils, seventies, high priests, and the order and organization of the church and kingdom of God in its fulness and completeness, more complete, perhaps, than it ever was since the world was framed. Why? Because it is the dispensation of the fulness of times, embracing all other times that have ever existed since the world was, and he has gathered us together for that purpose.--JD, 21:117-118, November 28, 1879.
I would further ask: What is this priesthood given us for? That we may be enabled to build up the Zion of our God. What for? To put down wrong and corruption, lasciviousness, lying, thieving, dishonesty, and covetousness, with every kind of evil, and also to encourage faith, meekness, charity, purity, brotherly kindness, truthfulness, integrity, honesty, and everything that is calculated to exalt and ennoble mankind, that we may be the true and proper representatives of God our Father here upon the earth, that we may learn to know his will and do it; that his will may be done on earth as in heaven. And hence, Zion is spoken of as being the pure in heart...
TO ESTABLISH THE KINGDOM OF GOD THROUGH CHURCH ORGANIZATION--Now, then, God has gathered us together for a purpose, and that purpose is to build up Zion and to establish his kingdom on the earth, and he could not do it in any other way that I know of than the way in which he is doing it. He may, however, have some other way, but if he has I am not acquainted with it. It is sufficient for us to know that he has chosen this way. Very well. We are taking hold and are doing a great many good things.
THE PROBLEM: TO GOVERN OURSELVES AND TRUST OTHERS TO GOD--We are here, then, to build up Zion... Now, while we have no disrespect for the world, no disrespect for the nations in which we live, or for the authorities thereof, if they act wisely, well. If they do not act wisely, it is not so well. No matter about that; we can trust them in the hands of God.
LIBERTY AND RIGHTS OF ALL TO BE MAINTAINED--We are the friends of all men, and are the friends of this nation. We are the friends and supporters of the Constitution of this nation. We are the friends of right, of freedom, and of good administration and good men everywhere, and that on the principle... of freedom, liberty, believe, and let believe, worship, and let others worship, worship as you please according to the dictates of conscience, and let others do the same. It is for us to be governed by correct principles, and as far as it lies in our power, to extend to all men this right, and then maintain, on correct principles, our own rights, the rights of others and the rights of God. These are my feelings in relation to this matter.
PRIESTHOOD TO TEACH THE GOSPEL SO THAT LIBERTY CAN PREVAIL--But the world do not comprehend our principles; they cannot. But we can afford to teach them the gospel even if we are abused for doing it. We can deal justly with them, and then suffer their abuse. No matter. We can do all this and a good deal more, and also advocate the rights of men, look after our own interests and welfare, and the interest of the community we are associated with, and sustain all just laws and correct principles.--JD, 22:9-11, January 9, 1881.
THE ATTITUDE REQUIRED--If we understand ourselves and our position, it ought to be with us, the kingdom of God first and ourselves afterwards. If we can learn to accomplish a little thing, the Lord will probably tell us to do a greater, because we are prepared to do it. . . . If we are the people of God, and he is trusting to us to accomplish these great purposes, we have got to do a little more than we have done, and we have got to be willing and obedient to the dictation of the Spirit of the Lord and his servants whom he had placed over us. If we do this, every labor we engage in will be joyous and pleasant to us, peace will reign in our bosoms and the peace of God will abide in our habitations; the Spirit of the Lord will brood over us, and we shall be full of joy and rejoicing all the day long, and so it will be to the end of the chapter. I know of no other way to accomplish all this work, only to be taught of the Lord, and for that purpose he has organized his holy priesthood.-- JD, 10:150-151, April 6, 1863.
PRIESTHOOD TO BRING ABOUT THE RESTITUTION OF ALL THINGS--To bring about this desirable end--to restore creation to its pristine excellency and to fulfil the object of creation--to redeem, save, exalt, and glorify man--to save and redeem the dead and the living, and all that shall live according to its laws, is the design and object of the establishment of the priesthood on the earth in the last days. It is for the purpose of fulfilling what has not heretofore been done--that God's works may be perfected--that the times of the restitution of all things may be brought about, and that, in conjunction with the eternal priesthood in the heavens (who without us, nor we without them, could not be made perfect), we may bring to pass all things which have been in the mind of God, or spoken of by the Spirit of God, through the mouth of all the holy prophets since the world was...
The priesthood in the heavens are uniting with us to bring about these purposes, and as they are governed by the same principle, that our works may agree--that there may be a reciprocity of action, and that God's will (so far as we are concerned) may be done on the earth as it is in heaven. It is this which we have to learn, and this which we must do to fulfil our calling, and render our works acceptable in the sight of God and of the holy angles, and also in the sight of our brethren, who are associated with us in the priesthood in the kingdom of God on the earth.--MS, 9:321-322, November 1, 1847.
LABOR IN THE PRIESTHOOD "THE WORK IS HARDLY BEGUN."--Some men who have been ordained to the priesthood have remarked that they have nothing to do. I have heard some foolish remarks of that kind. They will find plenty to do before they get through. They need not be troubled on that score. There will be plenty for them to do if they are only prepared to do it. There is a great work to perform in preaching the gospel to the nations of the earth. Then as we build our temples we shall want a great many people to administer in them, and I have seen some people quite pleased at the idea. Some elders, seventies, and high priests have said--"What can I do? I am getting old and gray-headed. Still I would like to do something." We shall require quite a number to administer in the temples as we get them built...
You need not be concerned about having nothing to do. We will find plenty for the seventies to do. You need not think there are any too many of them. The nations of the earth have yet to be preached to. The work is not all through. It is hardly begun. We are just getting ready for the labor, and so you may prepare yourselves, you seventies, you high priests, and you elders, for missions to the nations of the earth.--JD, 25:185-186, May 18, 1884.
And what did Joseph Smith come to do? The will of his Father, to learn that will and do it. What was the duty of Brigham Young? The same. What is mine? The same. What is the duty of the twelve? To follow the counsel of the presidency. What is the duty of the presidents of stakes? To follow the counsel of the presidency. What is the duty of the bishops? To follow the counsel of the presidents of stakes and of their presiding bishop. I have had men frequently come to me and want to pass by the presidents of stakes. I pass them back again! I tell them to go to their presidents. Again I have men come to me who wish to pass by their bishops; I send them back to their bishops, as I wish to honor all men in their place. I have enough to do without interfering with the little details of others: and so on from them to the elders, priests, teachers and deacons, every man in his place.--JD, 22:310, August 28, 1881.
SPIRITUAL MANIFESTATIONS: RESTORATION OF THE PRIESTHOOD
PURPOSE OF THE FIRST VISION--Certain manifestations have already occurred. When our Heavenly Father appeared unto Joseph Smith, the Prophet, he pointed to the Savior who was with him, (and who, it is said, is the brightness of the Father's glory and the express image of his person) and said: "This is my beloved Son, hear Him." There was an evidence manifested through his servant to the world, that God lived, that the Redeemer, who was crucified and put to death to atone for the sins of the world, also lived, that there was a message which had to be communicated to the human family, and that the Son was the personage through which it should be communicated. The key thus being turned, authority given by the highest source in the heavens in relation to the purposes of God on the earth, the holy priesthood began to be developed. Why? Because there was no priesthood on the earth; there was nobody who was authorized to operate and officiate in the name of the Lord.
RESTORATION OF THE AARONIC PRIESTHOOD--Therefore John the Baptist came as the representative of the Aaronic Priesthood, having held the keys thereof in his day, and he placed his hands upon the heads of Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, and... imparted the Aaronic Priesthood... It being already conferred, it is not now necessary that John the Baptist should return for the accomplishment of that purpose. He had delivered his testimony; he had turned the key; he had introduced the power and authority to administer in that priesthood; so that those upon whom it was conferred were able to perform the several duties associated therewith.
RESTORATION OF THE MELCHIZEDEK PRIESTHOOD--Then Peter, James and John appeared and conferred upon Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery the Melchizedek priesthood... It is not necessary that Peter, James and John should come again to do the thing that is already done.
PRIESTHOOD, THE KEY TO ALL BLESSINGS-- The priesthood has been restored, with which are connected all the blessings that ever were associated with any people upon the face of the earth; and if we know today so little in regard to the things of God, and the principles associated with eternity, with the heavens and with the angels, it is because we have not improved our privileges as we might, nor lived up to those principles which God has revealed unto us, and because we are not yet prepared for further advancement.--JD, 25:177-178, May 18, 1884.
RESPONSIBILITY OF THE PRIESTHOOD
SAINTS MAY FAIL BUT THE KINGDOM WILL NOT--It has been asked by Brother Brigham whether this kingdom will fail. I tell you in the name of Israel's God it will not fail. I tell you in the name of Israel's God it will roll forth, and that the things spoken of by the holy prophets in relation to it will receive their fulfilment. But in connection with this I will tell you another thing: A great many of the Latter-day Saints will fail, a great many of them are not now and never have been living up to their privileges, and magnifying their callings and their priesthood, and God will have a reckoning with such people, unless they speedily repent.
PRIESTHOOD HOLDS THE DESTINY OF THE HUMAN FAMILY--This exhibits a principle of adjudication or judgment in the hands, first, of the great High Priest and King, Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God; secondly, in the hands of the twelve apostles on the continent of Asia, bestowed by Jesus hiMSelf; thirdly, in the twelve disciples on this continent, to their peoples, who it appears are under the presidency of the twelve apostles who ministered at Jerusalem; which presidency is also exhibited by Peter, James, and John, the acknowledged presidency of the twelve apostles; they, holding this priesthood first on the earth, and then in the heavens, being the legitimate custodians of the keys of the priesthood, came and bestowed it upon Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery.
It is also further stated that the saints shall judge the world. Thus Christ is at the head, his apostles and disciples seem to take the next prominent part; then comes the action of the saints, or other branches of the priesthood, who it is stated shall judge the world. This combined priesthood, it would appear, will hold the destiny of the human family in their hands and adjudicate in all matters pertaining to their affairs; and it would seem to be quite reasonable, if the twelve apostles in Jerusalem are to be the judges of the twelve tribes, and the twelve disciples on this continent are to be the judges of the descendants of Nephi, that the brother of Jared and Jared should be the judges of the Jaredites, their descendants; and, further, that the first presidency and twelve who have officiated in our age, should operate in regard to mankind in this dispensation, and also in regard to all matters connected with them, whether they relate to the past, present, or future, as the aforementioned have done in regard to their several peoples; and that the patriarchs, the presidents, the twelve, the high priests, the seventies, the elders, the bishops, priests, teachers and deacons should hold their several places behind the veil, and officiate according to their calling and standing in that priesthood. In fact, the priesthood is called an everlasting priesthood; it ministers in time and in eternity...
Thus shall we also become legitimately and by right, through the atonement and adoption, kings and priests--priests to administer in the holy ordinances pertaining to the endowments and exaltations; and kings, under Christ, who is King of kings and Lord of lords, to rule and govern, according to the eternal laws of justice and equity, those who are thus redeemed and exalted.--MA, 156-157, 158-159.