All blessings come from God’s total priesthood power and authority. Priesthood power and blessings, by that expanded definition, have been and always will be available to all who qualify for them, without restriction based on gender, birth order, or lineage. This principle can readily be seen from multiple examples in which God’s power was manifest at a time when conferred priesthood did not exist on the earth. Many spiritual and devoted individuals complied with laws that govern reception of God’s blessings, without having received any priesthood ordination. Christian reformers such as William Tyndale, Martin Luther, and John Calvin received God’s power as they translated the Bible and participated in other inspired activities.
Even after the Great Apostasy, God was not “snoozing” until the priesthood was conferred on Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery on May 15, 1829 (Doctrine and Covenants 13).1 Before and after the Reformation, God blessed men and women, Protestants, Catholics, and non-Christians by His priesthood power and authority as they prayed and lived according to the light and knowledge they received.
Joseph Smith originally accessed God’s priesthood power and authority without priesthood keys and without conferred priesthood authority. God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith after his sincere prayer before priesthood keys had been restored to the earth. The Book of Mormon was translated in part by the gift and power of God before Joseph Smith received any priesthood ordination. What power, then, did Joseph Smith have access to? The only answer is God’s priesthood power and authority.
The same is true today, although the keys of the priesthood are on the earth. People who are not members of the Church or who do not hold conferred priesthood pray and receive answers, exercise faith, and are healed. Those who live God’s commandments are blessed.
Through revelation, there is much we know about the power and authority God has delegated to men through priesthood ordination.2 We know that priesthood keys must necessarily function within the context of God’s total priesthood power and authority. All priesthood keys for the earth are held by Jesus Christ, and the priesthood conferred upon mortal men was anciently named after Him: the Holy Priesthood, after the order of the Son of God (Doctrine and Covenants 107:2–3). This is why ordained holders of the priesthood act in the name of Jesus Christ. In this role, a priesthood holder performs ordinances that will be recognized by God as valid. Conferred priesthood authority also includes the right and responsibility to preside within the organizational structure of the Church. Through priesthood keys, God governs His Church. By conferred priesthood authority, the gospel is preached and the ordinances of salvation and exaltation for both the living and the dead are performed.
Priesthood is the conduit for obtaining revelation in the Church, the channel through which God reveals Himself and His glory, His intents and His purposes. Although men and women both receive revelation through God’s priesthood power for their specific stewardships and responsibilities, the Melchizedek Priesthood holds “the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God” (Doctrine and Covenants 84:19–20).3 Through those who hold priesthood keys, the mind and will of God for His people as a whole are conveyed. When priesthood is employed by His servants on His errand, it functions as if by the Lord’s own mouth and hand (Doctrine and Covenants 1:38).
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1. See Terryl Givens and Fiona Givens, The Crucible of Doubt: Reflections on the Quest for Faith (2014), 87.
2. Man, however, cannot take such priesthood power unto himself; it must be conferred by God through His servants (see Hebrews 5:4; Doctrine and Covenants 1:38). Unauthorized use of the priesthood is invalid, sinful, and frequently punished (see the examples of Korah [Numbers 16], Miriam [Exodus 15:20; Numbers 12], Uzza [1 Chronicles 13:10], Saul [1 Samuel 13:5–14], Uzziah [2 Chronicles 26], and Sceva’s sons [Acts 19:13–17]).
3.Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith (2007), 108–9.
For more in-depth insights into the priesthood, check out Elder and Sister Renlund's new book, The Melchizedek Priesthood.
This insightful book by Elder Dale G. and Sister Ruth Lybbert Renlund helps men better understand the principles and doctrine of the Melchizedek Priesthood and learn how to properly exercise it in their daily lives. Section One presents the foundations of the priesthood, explaining basics about what it is, what it is for, and the commandments that govern its use. Section two gives fifteen principles that act as a "primer" for using the priesthood more effectively. A few of these principles include "A Priesthood Holder Must Be Willing to Be Presided Over," "A Priesthood Holders Uses Councils Effectively," and "A Priesthood Holder Judges Righteously." Elder and Sister Renlund's joint quest in studying the priesthood and its application offers a model for how men and women can work together in their understanding and teaching about the priesthood.