Lesson Five of the teachings of George Albert Smith deals with the priesthood. It emphasizes the LDS Church’s claim that the priesthood was lost after the death of the 12 Apostles until it was restored at the time of Joseph Smith. It then goes on to repeatedly make the claim that only LDS priesthood holders have divine power and authority. Among many other things, this means, for example, that non-LDS baptisms are empty rituals.
It probably could go without saying, but just to be clear it needs to be stated that Christians don’t share the view of history presented in this chapter. They don’t believe that the Lord wanted to set up a permanent organization of apostles, high priests, seventies, etc. They don’t believe that there was a total apostasy when the 12 apostles died. They don’t believe that John the Baptist or Peter, James, and John appeared and ordained Joseph Smith into the priesthood.
One reason they don’t believe any of this is because the Bible tells us about the priesthood that the Lord instituted in the New Testament. Peter describes it in his first letter. From the first verse of his letter we see that Peter was writing to converts to Christianity scattered throughout the Mediterranean world. They were men and women from all different races and nationalities. In chapter two, he is still addressing them all when he says: “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (v.9).
All believers, regardless of race or gender, are in the Lord’s priesthood. People enter it the moment they are brought to faith. All believers are part of the chosen generation. All believers are part of the holy nation. All believers are peculiar or special people. And all believers constitute the royal priesthood.
This passage also tells us what they are to do. They are to “shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” They are to praise God. And God surely deserves praise. Because Jesus paid for all our sins, he forgives us freely. He forgives us so completely that he doesn’t even remember them – much less demand any payment from us. “And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.” (Hebrews 10:17) Because Jesus paid for all our sins, he gives eternal life, not conditioned on a person’s worthiness, but as his free gift. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) Because God has saved us freely and fully in Jesus, he deserves all praise.
And neither is a person’s living eternally with Heavenly Father dependent on the ordinances performed by the LDS priesthood as George Albert Smith states. That is completely dependent on Jesus’ work: the perfect life that he credits to the account of believers – his death that washed away all sin.
Faith in Jesus Christ, not the LDS priesthood, is the source of all divine power and authority.