Is there priesthood authority on the earth right now? Yes! We can perform ordinances that God will recognize, we can preach the gospel, and we can perform miracles. Below I will discuss the restoration of the priesthood. I will also show how I can trace my authority, through this restoration, back to Peter, James, and John who received their authority from Jesus Christ. I will also give some reasons as to why priesthood is so essential to the church.
The Restoration of the Priesthood
Priesthood authority was given by Christ to the apostles while he was still on earth. This authority allowed the apostles to preside over the growing church and to baptize, confirm, and ordain others.
After the death of Judas, the apostles called Matthias to fill the vacancy in the Twelve (Acts 1:20-26). Paul was called as an apostle as well. Yet persecution increased, and it became harder and harder to keep the church together. Eventually the apostles were all gone, and the church fell into the Great Apostasy. The priesthood was lost from the earth till the early 1800s.
In 1820, Joseph Smith prayed to know which church he should join. In response to his prayer, God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph. They said that there were no true churches on the earth at the time and that through him the Church of Jesus Christ would be restored.
Divine visitations did not end there. Joseph was visited by other angels who restored priesthood power and keys. John the Baptist appeared to restore the lesser, preparatory priesthood.
Later, Peter, James, and John appeared to restore the higher priesthood. This is the same priesthood power that allowed the apostles to preside over the church and perform other priesthood duties.
Because of these appearances, the priesthood power that was lost with the death of the apostles was restored. Every priesthood holder in the LDS Church can trace his authority back to the appearance of Peter, James, and John, and from them to Jesus Christ. This trace is called a Line of Authority.
My Line of Authority
Like other priesthood holders in the LDS Church, I can trace my authority all the way to the Savior via this ordination of Joseph Smith by Peter, James and John.
I was ordained on 22 August 2004 by Douglas Larsen (my father), a high priest.
He was ordained on 27 January 1996 by J. Richard Larsen (my grandfather), a high priest.
He was ordained on 26 June 1951 by Delbert L. Stapley, an apostle.
He was ordained on 5 October 1950 by George Albert Smith, an apostle.
He was ordained on 8 October 1903 by Joseph Fielding Smith, an apostle.
He was ordained on 1 July 1866 by Brigham Young, an apostle.
He was ordained on 14 February 1835 by the Three Witnesses to the truthfulness of Book of Mormon: Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris.
They were ordained on 14 February 1835 by Joseph Smith, Jr.
Joseph Smith was ordained in 1829 by Peter , James, and John, who were ordained apostles by the Savior during His earthly ministry.
You can find a Gospel Principles lesson on the priesthood here and a family home evening lesson on the priesthood here.
You can see many reasons for why priesthood authority is so important before reading any lessons, though. All it takes is an honest look at the Christian world after the turn of the first century.
One of the first casualties of the lost priesthood authority was the corruption of doctrine. Greek philosophy became mixed with Christian teachings. This is known as Hellenization.
Another thing to notice is the abundance of Christian sects today. As much as Christians like C. S. Lewis like to stress Christian unity, we are far from united. The Bible can be, and usually is, interpreted hundreds of different ways, and without the apostles to clarify God’s word we are left with enough Christian denominations to fill eight or ten pages in most phone books. They can’t all be true. They are not all true.
Yet another thing to notice are that great atrocities have been committed in the name of the Church. The Crusades and the Inquisitions were violent and left graves upon graves of innocent people. Bad feelings from those events still exist today among the ancestors of their participants. Are such events really examples of a church led by the Prince of Peace?
And yet another thing to notice is the corruption that has taken place in positions of power and leadership. The Catholic papacy has seen it’s share, as have the leadership positions of other churches. People ascend hierarchal ladders, and once there serve their own selfish interests. The teaching of the gospel, and the saving of souls, is put on the back-burner. Instead, leaders forward their own agendas, unchecked by missing apostles.
There are many, many reasons as to why authority is so essential, and perhaps I will leave the subject to you. Give it more careful thought. Think of the benefits of authority in secular institutions, like the law enforcement example we examined in Part I. As you do, you will find similar reasons why authority would be important to the government of God, and you will see problems in modern Christianity that have arisen from lost authority.
Hugh B. Brown’s Authority from the King
Hugh B. Brown, who later became an apostle and member of the First Presidency, related this story on the subject of authority.
“I was at one time an army officer. As such, I became accustomed to having men stand at attention and salute me and call me ‘sir,’ and frankly, I liked it.
“Often men came and asked for favors—perhaps a furlough or a leave or some thing that they thought I could grant—because they knew that I was an officer of the King [of England] and that I had the right to speak in his name. And so as they came I handed the ‘blessings’ down to them and I became more haughty and self-important with each event.
“One day a messenger came to my hotel just off Piccadilly Circus. He said, ‘You are wanted immediately in the hospital.’
“I thought, ‘Well, here is another boy that wants something. I will go down and see what is wanted.’
“I called a taxi and went to the hospital.
“When I arrived the doctors stood at attention and saluted, and that fed my ego. The nurses treated me with great respect and that pleased me even more.
“They directed me to a little room and as I pushed open the door, I saw an emaciated young man lying on a cot. I recognized him as a former Sunday School student of mine in Cardston, Canada.
“When he greeted me, he did not use my rank in his salutation, but simply said, ‘Brother Brown, I sent for you to ask if you would use your authority in my behalf.’ (I thought, ‘Well, this is what I expected. What does he want?’)
“ ‘Brother Brown,’ he said, ‘you know I have a widowed mother; I am her only son; the doctors say I cannot live; will you give me my life!’
“I thought, ‘My goodness, the King of England can’t give him his life. To what is he referring?’
“Then he startled me with a request: ‘Will you administer to me!’
“At that moment … my uniform, with the insignia on it, seemed to melt away, and I stood before that young man in a uniform with insignia indicating authority. I could not have worn that uniform, which was next to my skin, if I had not had some authority given to me. I stood there thinking of that authority, and I was humbled but inspired.
“I went over to his cot and knelt beside him. I put my hands on his head and said, ‘In the name of Jesus Christ and by the authority of the holy priesthood, I bless you and promise you that you will get well and return to your mother.’ God honored that promise.
“I went into that hospital a proud British officer, and I came out a humble Mormon elder. Ever since then I have earnestly tried to remember that there is a power and authority given to man, not from the king or the president, but from the King of Kings, and if we live properly and do not forget that we have been so endowed, we may exercise that authority in behalf of those who need our ministration.”
Continuing the Series
- Part 1 – Where does priesthood authority not come from?
- Part 2 – The restoration of the priesthood, and why that restoration is so important.
- Part 3 – Exercising priesthood power and authority with style – Men in Black style, that is.