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Where did you get your authority?

Responses to Mormon Claims

 

 

 The Prophet Joseph Smith also taught, ‘Although there are two Priesthoods, yet the Melchisedek Priesthood comprehends the Aaronic or Levitical Priesthood, and is the grand head, and holds the  highest authority which pertains to the Priesthood, and the keys of the Kingdom of God in all ages of the world to the largest posterity on the earth, and is the channel through which all knowledge, doctrine, the plan of salvation, and every important matter is revealed from heaven”

  (History of the Church,4:207 quoted in Doctrine and Covenant Student Manual, p.262 – An official teaching manual of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints)

 

 “If there is no Melchizedek priesthood on earth, the true Church is not here and the gospel of Christ is not available to men.  But where the Melchizedek priesthood is, there is the kingdom, the Church and the fullness of the gospel”

  (Mormon Doctrine, Bruce McConkie, A non-official Mormon source, p. 480, B McConkie was a Mormon apostle)

 

Mormon Missionaries often ask non Latter-day Saints, “Where did you get your authority?”  This claim of authority by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (commonly known as the Mormon Church) is exclusively connected with the Mormon teachings on priesthood.  According to the Mormon Church, since I have not been baptised by a “proper priesthood holder”, my baptism is not recognised by God.  As you see in the above quotes, the Mormon Church claims to have the sole right to minister by priesthood authority. The Mormon Church also claims that Christ ordained the twelve men as apostles and gave them the priesthood authority to act in God’s name. Some time after the death of disciples, according to the Mormon Church, the complete apostasy prevailed. God removed the priesthood from the earth. The total apostasy ended when Joseph Smith restored the true church with the priesthood authority. The Aaronic priesthood was allegedly given to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery by John the Baptist on May 15,1829, and sometime later, before August 1830, they received the Melchizedek priesthood from Apostles Peter, James and John.

 

Does the Bible support these claims?  When Jesus was questioned about his authority, he asked the Pharisees if the John the Baptist’s authority to baptize was from heaven or of man (Matthew 21:23-27).  We ask Latter-day Saints the same question: Was the authority of Joseph Smith from heaven or of men? 1 Latter-day Saints, where did you get your authority?  By what authority do you preach the gospel, baptise, lay on hands for the reception of the Holy Ghost, confer priesthood on others? 

Where to start? The Mormon Church has two different priesthoods: the Aaronic priesthood, and the Melchizedek priesthood. The Aaronic priesthood is an appendage to the greater Melchizedek priesthood (Gospel Principles, pp. 86 - An official teaching manual of the Mormon Church). If the Mormon Church claims to be the restoration of the New Testament Church (The Sixth Article of Faith- in the Pearl of Great Price), we need to compare the Aaronic priesthood and Melchizedek priesthood with the Bible before we decide if the Mormon claims are true.

 

  Doctrine & Covenants 107: 1 “There are in the (Mormon) Church, two priesthoods, namely the Melchizedek and Aaronic, including the Levitical priesthood.”

 

1.   The Aaronic Priesthood

 

1.1. Do we need the Aaronic priesthood now?  What were the qualifications for the Aaronic priesthood, and how were they called?

 

The Mormon Church claims that the Aaronic priesthood holders “have authority to administer the outward ordinances of repentance and baptism”(Doctrines & Covenants 107:13-14, 20, Gospel Principles, pp. 86-87). Every male member in good standing holds this priesthood. The Aaronic priesthood has three offices: deacon, teacher and priest. Boys become deacons at the age of 12, teachers at the age of 14, and priests at the age of 16. The LDS Church uses Hebrews 5:1,4 to prove that they were called even as Aaron was. And this teaching is enshrined in the Fifth Article of Faith.

 

 Hebrews 5:4 "And no man taketh this honor unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron”. (KJB)

 

We believe that a man must be called of God by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands, by those who are in authority to preach the gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof” (The Fifth Article of Faith-in The Pearl of Great Price)

 

The Bible teaches that the Aaronic priesthood was part of the religious system under the Law of Moses.  It was inadequate to obtain total and permanent forgiveness of sins.  It was done away with, and replaced by something better - Jesus Christ’s priesthood (Hebrews 7:11-12).  In the LDS Church every male member in good standing holds the Aaronic priesthood and if deemed worthy progresses to the Melchidzedek priesthood, usually at the age of 18. What does the Bible say about qualifications for the Aaronic priesthood?

 

The Bible teaches that Aaronic priests must be of the tribe of Levi and family line of Aaron. The qualifications included the minimum age of the Aaronic priesthood at twenty  five (Numbers 8:23-25) and strict physical requirements (Leviticus 21:16-23).  Numbers 16 tells us the story of Korah, Dathan and Abiran, who rebelled against “Aaron’s monopoly” of the priesthood (16:10B). They were actually rebelling against God. God caused the ground open up and swallowed Korah and those who followed him. (See II Chronicles 26:1-21, 1 Kings 13:33-34).

 

A Mormon Institute teacher taught us about “patriarchal blessing” where a “patriarch” allegedly reveals to Latter-day Saints their lineage or future potential.  She asked the class how many were told to be of the tribe of Ephraim or of the tribes of Manasseh.  She did not ask the class if anyone belonged to any of the other ten tribes, let alone whether they were of the family of Aaron. I was the only one who did not raise my hand to either question! Latter-day Saints seem to allegedly belong either to the tribe of Ephraim or to the tribes of Manasseh. But God was very strict about requirements for the Aaronic priesthood.   Even Christ could not be a priest of Aaron because he was of the tribe of Judah (Hebrews 7:13-14).

 

How were Aaronic priests called?  Exodus 29 and Leviticus 8 tell us the seven day period of consecration before ordination.  They had blood placed upon their right ear, their right thumbs and their big toe (Leviticus 8:23). Do Mormon Aaronic priesthood holders observe the biblical method of ordaining priests in these passages?  No, they don’t.

1.2.  Did Jesus ordain the Twelve to the priesthood by laying on of his hands?

The Mormon Church teaches that priesthood authority is conferred only by laying on of hands (Doctrine of the Gospe,p.67 An official teaching manual of the Mormon Church). The Mormon Church also teaches that Jesus laid hand on and ordained the twelve, quoting John 15:16.

     John 15:16 “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you…”(KJV)

But the KJV (the only version the Mormon Church officially uses) rendering word “ordained” is translated as “appointed” in the modern translation (the New Kings James Version, the New International Version and the English Standard Version).  Christ chose and appointed the twelve. Please notice that neither the priesthood nor laying on of hands are mentioned in the passage. Rather Jesus was telling them that he had made the choice to love and die for us, to invite us to live with him from all time and eternity, and we must choose whether or not to accept his offer of eternal life.2  Jesus laid his hands on children (Mark10:15) and the sick (Mark6:5), and so did the apostles (Acts 9:12). Nowhere does the NT say that Jesus laid his hands on the disciples and ordained them to priesthood.

The Bible teaches that the laying on of hands, along with prayer, was ultimately associated with ordination or commission rites for ministry (Acts 6:5,13:3) as an outward sign that God gave his gifts for the task.3  This practice has continued until present day. The acts themselves are not magical.  In the OT Joshua was appointed as Moses’ successor by the laying on of hands (Numbers 27:18, 23), as were the Levites (Num.8:10). But the installation of elders did not include the laying on of hands (Num.11:16-17,24-25).4 Hands were also laid on goats, bullocks and rams (Leviticus16:21, Exodus 29:10,15).

1.3. Do the Mormon Aaronic priesthood holders offer animal sacrifices?

What duties did the Aaronic priests perform? They were mediators between people and God. They offered animal sacrifices, to reconcile sinful men to holy God.  Do Mormon priesthood holders offer animal sacrifices?  No.  Some Mormon missionaries may say that because of Christ’s sacrificial death, they no longer need animal sacrifices.  But, the Mormon Church not only reinstituted the Aaronic priesthood, but also anticipates the reinstitution of animal sacrifice (Doctrine & Covenants 13, Joseph Smith History 1:69 in the Pearl of Great Price, Doctrine & Covenant Student Manual, p.29, Mormon Doctrines, p.666)

The layout of the tabernacle and the whole system of animal sacrifice stressed God’s holiness and human sin. The thick temple veil was a barrier that prevented the priests from seeing into the temple’s inner room, the Holy of Holies. Once a year, on the Day of the Atonement, only the high priest was allowed to enter the inner sanctuary (Hebrews 9:7). He entered bearing the blood of sacrificial animals as the atonement for the sins of the people. The repetition of the sacrifice shows its ineffectiveness (Hebrews 9:25). The animal sacrifice offered only temporary forgiveness. Christ offered the once-for-all sacrifice on the cross.  The veil of the Temple in Jerusalem was torn in two from top to bottom when Christ died. This was heaven’s response to the completion of his once-for-all atoning sacrifice on the cross.5

     

      Hebrews 9:12  “Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.”

 

      Matthew 27:51 "And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake and the rocks rent;"

 

 With Christ there was a change in the priesthood. Under the new covenant, the Aaronic priesthood  was taken away.

 

       Hebrews 7:12 "For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law."

Going back to the old system is to undo Jesus’ work on the cross!   Animal sacrifice was ended since it was the shadow, pointing to Christ.  In one offering of Jesus Christ, the sacrifice system with its priesthood duties were fulfilled.

           

2.            The Melchizedek Priesthood

 

2.1. What are qualifications for the Melchizedek priesthood?

 

The Mormon Church teaches that the power and authority of the Melchizedek priesthood is to lead the LDS Church and direct teaching of the gospel in all parts of the world and the keys of all the spiritual blessings of the church( Doctrine & Covenants 107:1-14, Gospel Principles, p.87).  The offices in this priesthood are elder, seventy, high priest, patriarch and apostles. Worthy young men enter this priesthood at the age 19 or older.

    

     “Righteousness was an absolute requisite for the conferral of the higher priesthood.”

      (Mormon Doctrine,p.478 quoted in The Life and  Teachings of Jesus Christ & His Apostles,p.385 – an official LDS teaching manual)

 

Does the Bible support such teachings?  What does the Bible tell us about qualifications for the Melchizedek priesthood?  Who is Melchizedek?

 

Melchizedek was King of Salem (Jerusalem) and priest of God Most High (Heb.7:1-4). He is mentioned in only three places in the Bible (Genesis 14:17-20, Psalm 110:4 and Hebrews 4;14 to  8:4). He has no priestly succession, no priestly parentage, no record of birth and death (Hebrew 7:3).

 

   Hebrews 7:3: "Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of  days nor end of life, but made like unto the Son of God, [he] abideth a priest continually."

What are qualifications for the Melchizedek priesthood? He has to be a righteous King/Priest of peace.6  Melchizedek’s name is made up of two Hebrew words, meaning king and righteous.7  He also was a priest. He was the king of Salem, which in Hebrew means peace. Who can be qualified to be king, being righteous and priest? Only Jesus Christ. 

 

Note that there was no Melchizedek priesthood between Genesis 14 and the coming of Jesus Christ. The only Melchizedek priest in the OT is Melchizedek himself. In the NT Christ was the only one priest after the order of Melchizedek (Heb. 5:5-6,10).

 

2.2. Is the Melchizedek priesthood transferable or untransferable?

 

The Mormon Church quotes Hebrews 5:6 to say there was an order of priests after Melchizedek, that is, passed on like the Aaronic priesthood.  According to the Mormon Church, many worthy men had held the Melchizedek priesthood from Adam down to the times of Moses, but when Israel rebelled, God took Moses and the Melchizedek priesthood from them (Doctrine & Covenants 84:5-26, 107:41-53).  Between the time of Moses and the coming of Jesus Christ, however, several prophets held the Melchizedek priesthood (Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood – An official teaching manual of the Mormon Church).  When Jesus came, he restored the Melchizedek priesthood. “When he finally left the earth, the Apostles were given the authority to ordain others to various offices to the priesthood”, but it was lost again by apostasy, and it was taken from the earth (Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood ,p.13, LDS Bible Dictionary, p.730).

 

Hebrews 5:6   “As he saith also in another place, Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchisedec.”

 

The Bible teaches that Christ was appointed a high priest after the order of Melchizedek by God, not by an existing Melchizedek priesthood holder, nor by a ceremony of laying on of hands. Hebrews 5:6 applies Psalm 110:4  to Christ alone.    “Christ’s priesthood belongs to a different order from that of Aaron and the levitical priesthoods. He fulfils the role and function of the Jewish priesthood as high priest in the order of Melchizedek.”8 Nowhere does the Bible say that Adam, Moses, Peter, James and John held the Melchizedek priesthood.

 

Hebrews 7:24-25 tell us that since Christ is eternal, Christ has an unchangeable priesthood.  His

priesthood is not to be transferred to any successor. The KJV rendering of unchangeable means untransferable.9

 

Hebrews 7:24-25: "But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore, he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth  to make intercession for them."

Since Jesus is eternal, he has an unchangeable priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him.

2.3.  Were there more than one High Priest in the Old Testament at a time?

The Mormon Church teaches that “stake presidents, mission presidents, high councillors, bishops, and other leaders of the Church are ordained high priests” (Gospel Principles, p.90- an official teaching manual of the Mormon Church).

The Bible teaches that in the OT only one Jewish high priest was appointed at a time. The high priests in the OT were the chief priests of the Aaronic priesthood. The Bible never says that the high priests were members of the Melchizedek priesthood.  Some Latter-day Saints point to Luke 3:2 to say there were more than one high priest. While in Luke 3:2 two contemporary men were named high priests, only one high priest held office at a time.  Caiaphas held the office AD18-37, and his father-in law, Annas, had held office AD 6-15, and continued to exercise influence.10  Today Jesus Christ is the only high priest, as he lives forever (Hebrews 7:24). Moreover, In LDS high priests hold the Melchizedek priesthood, but high priests in the OT never held the Melchizedek priesthood.11

Jesus is both the sacrificing high priest and the sacrifice (Heb.2:14-15). Christ’s sacrifice was offered once, and it offered total and permanent forgiveness of sins. When there is remission of sins, no more sacrifice is needed (Hebrews 10:17-18).

         Hebrews 10:10,14  “10By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all…..14For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.”

        

         Hebrew 10:17-18  17And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. 18Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin”.

 

With Christ our great High Priest, who lives forever, there is no need for any succession of sacrificing priests. “Jesus’ priesthood is unique and no man can claim to hold what is his by right as the one great high priest, the one Mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5).”12

 

Jesus is the only high priest in the NT. The New Testament church does not hold the Aaronic priesthood, except in Judaism. Rather the NT teaches the priesthood of all believers. Christians in the New Testament church daily offered themselves as living sacrifices to God (Romans 12:1). Since then true believers, male and female, black or white, have been sharing Christ’s royal priesthood. Instead of offering sacrifices for other people’s sins as the OT priests did, we intercede for others in prayer.

 

       1 Peter 2:5 "Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ."

2.4.  What does the Bible say about our authority?

Our response to Latter-day Saints’ question, “Where did you get authority?” is found in John 1:12.

    John 1:12: "But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to  them  that  believe on his name;"(KJB)

  KJV rendering “power”(Greek, exousia) can also be translated as authority. True believers receive full authority to exercise as the adopted children of God. Note that when we accept Jesus we become adopted Children of God (Romans 8:16). Note that, for LDS, all men literally are children of God because of our creation (Gospel Principles, p.11). “We must come into this sonship relationship to become a legal heir to the Kingdom of God – through faith in Christ”. 13 Galatians 3:26 says that in Christ Jesus we are all the sons of God, through faith.

  After his resurrection Jesus declared that he had been given all “exousia”(power/authority) in heaven and earth (Matthew 28:18).

         

          Matthew 28:18- 20  “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost”.(KJB)

 

  The risen Lord with “fullest possible authority”14 in heaven and earth has commissioned true Christian to carry and proclaim his gospel to all nations (Matthew 28:18-20).  He said, “I am with you always, to the end of the age”. The Lord was talking about his presence among true Christians to the very end of time.  Joseph Smith claims the authority based on complete denials of the office and work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Latter-day Saints are like the Pharisees in Matthew 21:23-27, who thought they had the temple authority, but in fact they did not have any authority from God.  We conclude the authority of Joseph Smith is not from heaven.

 

Conclusion The priesthood of the old covenant, the Aaronic priesthood was a shadow, pointing to Jesus Christ. It was ineffective, as it only obtained temporary forgiveness of sins, and so was superseded by Christ, the Great High priest (Heb.7:11-17,10:8-21), the true Christians’ only High Priest and the only one after the order of Melchizedek. Jesus’ priesthood is perfect because he lives forever (Psalm 110:4). Christ’s once and for all sacrifice obtained total and permanent forgiveness of sins. Where there is remission of sins, no more sacrifice is needed (Hebrews 10:17-18). No succession of priesthood is needed today. LDS claim of the priesthood authority completely denies the office and work of Jesus Christ on the cross, bringing us back to the old system under the Mosaic Law. There is no priesthood in the New Testament. How can the Mormon Church claim to be the restoration of the New Testament Church, if it claims to have restored the Jewish priesthood which predates Christianity15 and was rendered unnecessary by Jesus’ death and resurrection?

                                                                                                         

Notes

 

1.       Hal Hougey, Latter-Day Saints – Where Did You Get Your Authority? (Concord, California, Pacific Publishing Company, 1976) p.1

2.       Life Application Bible, NIV(Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1991)p.1913

3.       Laying on of hands” in the “New Concise bible Dictionary” ed. Derek Williams (Leicester,IVP,1989) p.312)

4.       Walter Liefeld, “Laying on of hands” in the “Evangelical Dictionary of Theology,”  ed. Walter Elwell (Grand Rapids, Baker House,1984)p.626

5.       Luke Wilson, “Are Mormon Temples Christian”? (Grand Rapids, Institute for Religious Research http://irr.org

6.       Ron Rhodes & Marian Bodine, Reasoning from the Scriptures with the Mormons (Eugene, Harvest House, 1995) p.206

7.       Ibid.

8.       David Peterson, “HEBREWS” in the “New Bible Commentary”(Leicester, IVP, 1994) p.1331

9.       Ron Rhodes & Marian Bodine, p.210

10.   Howard Marshall, “LUKE” in the “New Bible Commentary”(Leicester, IVP, 1994) p.986

11.   Janis Hutchinson, The Mormon Missionaries (Grand Rapids, Kregal Resources, 1995) p.27

12.   James White, Letters to a Mormon Elder (Minneapolis, Bethany House, 1993) p.248

13.   Janis Hutchinson, p.85

14.   Leon Morris, The Gospel According to Matthew, Pillar NT Commentary(Leicester,Apollos,1992)p.745

15.   John Bracht, Mormonism – Magnificent Illusion (Sydney, Self-publishing, 1998) p.14

 

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