Archive for the 'priesthood' Category

22
May
12

Curse of Dark Skin

Lesson 21 of the Gospel Doctrine Class covers Mosiah 29 and chapters 1-4 in Alma. The majority of this section from the Book of Mormon talks about government.  That is also the emphasis of the teacher’s manual.  There is, however, one very controversial verse in this section, Alma 3:6.  It says:

“And the skins of the Lamanites were dark, according to the mark which was set upon their fathers, which was a acurse upon them because of their transgression and their rebellion against their brethren, who consisted of Nephi, Jacob, and Joseph, and Sam, who were just and holy men.”

The teacher’s manual does not address this verse.  On the one hand, that is not surprising.  But, on the other hand, it is surprising because it has played such a large role in the history of Mormonism.  On the basis of it and 2 Nephi 5:21 for about 150 years blacks were denied the priesthood.  They were banned until 1978 when President Kimball made the announcement that he had received a revelation lifting the ban.  (This announcement is now part of LDS Scripture.)

What is also interesting is how some Mormons try to say this verse doesn’t mean that the Lamanites had dark skin.  I just read a blog whose author was arguing that the dark skin was just a metaphor for the spiritual state they were in.  If that is correct, why then the long ban on blacks in the priesthood?

Isn’t it interesting that Jesus lived in the Middle East, at the crossroads of three continents?  I doubt if he looked like a northern European as he is often pictured. He, most likely, had the darker complexion of many Middle Eastern people.  In that way, even by his appearance, people from different races and cultures could identify with him.

But that is not the important point. What is important is that the Bible teaches that God doesn’t show favoritism.  “Knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him.” (Ephesians 6:9)

When it comes to people’s relationship with God, there is only one important thing.  How does one approach God?  Do they come before God only on the basis of Jesus’ righteousness for them?  Or do they come claiming their own righteousness?  Or do they come mixing in their righteousness with Jesus’ righteousness?  God will only acquit (justify) those who come solely on the basis of Jesus’ righteousness for them.  “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”  (Romans 3:24)

 

05
Mar
12

The Priesthood

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.

02
Mar
09

MELCHIZEDEK PRIESTHOOD AND SINGLE MEN

 

     In the Feb. 25th edition of the Meridian Magazine, an online LDS magazine, there was an interesting article entitled, “Why It is Not Good for Man to be Alone.”  One reason why I found it interesting is because it quotes D&C 132:19-20 and talks about Mormonism’s teaching of becoming gods – something that is not seen that often today.

    Especially interesting was how the author strongly connects marriage with the Melchizedek priesthood.  For example, he states:  “Priesthood and marriage are inseparably connected; one without the other is useless.”  “Being acquainted with the law of marriage is not enough; once a man learns of this law, he must obey it or face serious consequences.  Because this law is published openly in the Doctrine and Covenants, no man is left without excuse.”  These are just a couple of sample quotes.

    But the statement that really stood out to me was when he was talking about how Adam was asleep without Eve.  He takes off on that and states: “Clearly man is spiritually asleep until he marries.”  What implications does that have for the thousands of single LDS missionaries?

19
Feb
09

Jesus and the Melchizedek Priesthood

Jesus and the Melchizedek Priesthood

     A point Christians and Mormons agree on is that Melchizedek and Jesus were in the Melchizedek priesthood.  The point of contention is  whether or not they were the only ones holding that priesthood.  Christians say yes, Mormonism says no.  In this post, I  will expand on why Christians state that and the importance they have for stating that.

     To do that we have to look at the book of Hebrews, because it is the only place that gives us any details about the Melchizedek priesthood.  In 7:22-28 it contrasts Christ’s priesthood with the Aaronic priesthood.

 “22] By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament.

[23] And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death:

[24] But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood.

[25] 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.

[26] For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens;

[27] Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once, when he offered up himself.

[28] For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore.

    Note the contrasts.  In the Aaronic priesthood there were many priests (v. 23, 28) because they died and could not continue in the priesthood.  In striking contrast to “men” in verse 28 is the “Son”.  Not other men.  And there is no need for others because Jesus “is consecrated for evermore.”   This is a contrast that continues throughout the book.  The contrast is always between the many priests of the Aaronic priesthood and the one priest of the Melchizedek priesthood.  There are no “priests” when it comes to the Melchizedek priesthood.

     Secondly, note the contrast in verse 27.  They daily sacrificed.  He once for all.  Again this is expanded on greatly in the coming chapters.  For example, Hebrews 10:

10] By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
[11] And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins:
[12] But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;
[13] From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool.
[14] For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.

     What a striking contrast.  Aaronic priests stand working because their work of sacrificing is never done. Jesus sits because his work of sacrificing is done.

     The Bible does not talk about subsequent priests in the Melchizedek priesthood – in fact, the idea of subsequent priests violates the whole argument put forth in the book of Hebrews.  There are no successors because Jesus remains forever our priest – because Jesus has made the one offering “once for all”.

     The Bible intertwines the Melchizedek priesthood with Jesus’ sacrifice for sin.   That is what Christians immediately think of when they hear the phrase, “Melchizedek priesthood”.  They immediately think of God’s great love for them in sending Jesus to do everything for them so that they are perfect forever, not by anything they do, but by his one offering.

17
Feb
09

PRIESTHOOD AND SACRIFICE

 

     As I stated in my last post, in the Bible the main function of a priest was to offer sacrifices on behalf of the people.  The Old Testament temple worship revolved around two altars:  the bronze altar in the temple courtyard where animals were offered and the altar of incense within the Temple where incense was offered up. 

     The Bible keeps that emphasis on offering sacrifice when it talks about Jesus and the Melchizedek priesthood.  The book of Hebrews, the only place in the New Testament that describes Jesus as a priest, centers on the idea of sacrifice and that he, by offering himself, offered the final and ultimate sacrifice for sin.  (See my last post for one small example of that.)  But not once, in the entire book, does it even mention, much less elaborate, on priesthood authority. 

     This connection between priesthood and sacrifice cannot just be flippantly ignored. This holds true especially because Mormonism says that, through Joseph Smith, the priesthood was restored.  Restoring implies that the same thing is involved.  I don’t build an airplane and call it a restored car. 

      This is my question.  Just for the sake of discussion, assume that I accept the premise (which most of you know I don’t) that many things about the priesthood have been lost – wouldn’t it still be true if the priesthood was restored that a major function of it would be sacrifice?  If not, then wouldn’t it be true that not only would I have to believe that many things about the priesthood had been lost, but everything the Bible says about the priesthood is wrong?  What function of the priesthood that the Bible connects to priests does Mormonism still retain?  (It doesn’t connect baptism with the priesthood.  James 5:14 doesn’t mention priests either.)

15
Feb
09

MELCHIZEDEK PRIESTHOOD

 

     One very important aspect of Mormonism is the Melchizedek priesthood.  The LDS Church accurately states that “the Bible does not give many particulars concerning the functions of that priesthood, except that Christ was a high priest after that order.”  (Bible Dictionary, p.730.)  As that article goes on to state and demonstrate, much of Mormonism’s teaching on this topic is from Doctrine & Covenants (D&C).

     This constitutes quite a challenge when Christians and Mormons want to discuss it seeing that no other church body accepts the authority of D&C.  The only common grounds for discussion are the biblical statements and these are limited.  There is the brief historical account of Melchizedek in Genesis 14: 18-24.  Then there is David’s one verse prophecy in Psalm 110:4.  Finally you have that prophecy quoted and expanded upon in the book of Hebrews.

    Before looking specifically at how Hebrews talks about the Melchizedek priesthood, it would be good to see that it and the rest of the Bible describes the offering of sacrifice as THE main function of the priesthood.  That is what Old Testament priests did – day in and day out.  The book of Leviticus (which can almost be called the handbook for the priesthood) is filled with chapter after chapter detailing the various sacrifices.  For thousands of years the idea of priest and offering sacrifices went hand in hand. 

     That close connection between priests and offering sacrifice isn’t dropped when Hebrews talks about the Melchizedek priesthood.  There too the focus is on Jesus, our priest, offering a sacrifice.  For example, just in 9:23-10:18, words for sacrifice and offering are used no less than 23 times in the original Greek.  Just before that the word blood is used numerous times – another word that refers to sacrifice.  And that is just in one small section of the book.  By far, the most important function of priests, according to the Bible, was to offer sacrifice.

      There is a lot to be covered when talking about the Melchizedek priesthood. It can’t all be done in one post.  Therefore I am planning to talk about other details in future posts.  In this post, I want to emphasize, first of all, the point I made above – that there is not much common ground to begin with in discussing the Melchizedek priesthood.  Secondly, I want to emphasize that one of the huge difficulties I have experienced when trying to discuss the priesthood with Mormons is the tremendously different functions ascribed to the priesthood. 

     To my Mormon readers, I ask that you please remember that to Christians steeped in the Bible, the idea of priesthood goes hand and glove with offering sacrifices – especially sacrifices for sin.  That is what will automatically come to mind to me and others.  Sacrifice is what priests did!  That is especially what Jesus did as our priest when he offered himself up once for all for all sin so that “now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin.” (Hebrews 10:18)

     To my Christian readers, I ask that you please remember that when Mormons talk about priesthood, sacrifice is not what is in their mind.  I checked the “True to the Faith” manual.  In its articles on the priesthood in general and the two priesthoods specifically, the idea of sacrifice is not mentioned at all.  Rather Mormonism defines priesthood as “the eternal power and authority of God.

      Priesthood – same word, but entirely different concepts.  If there is going to be any productive discussion that will always need to be remembered.

      More next time.

10
Feb
09

Priesthood

 

     I was asked to address the priesthood.  That is understandable since the priesthood plays a big role in Mormonism.  As always, it is important to define terms.  The LDS manual, True to the Faith, defines it this way:  “The priesthood is the eternal power and authority of God.”  It goes on to state:  “God gives priesthood authority to worthy male members of the Church so they can act in His name for the salvation of his children.  Priesthood holders can be authorized to preach the gospel, administer the ordinances of salvation, and govern the kingdom of God on the earth.”  Mormonism has two priesthoods: the Aaronic and Melchizedek.

     I felt I had to give that little review because, it has been my experience, that many Christians don’t know much about what Mormonism says about the priesthood, and many Mormons are surprised that the priesthood is not a big topic in Christianity.

     The Aaronic or Levitical priesthood was an important component of the Old Testament.  But the New Testament says that priesthood was done away with.  Hebrews 7-10 has an extended argument making that very point.  But those chapters always make the point that it was replaced with a superior priesthood, the Melchizedek priesthood – of which there is only one priest, Jesus.  He is the only priest because he offered himself up as the perfect sacrifice once and for all.  “For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” (Hebrews 10:14)

      The New Testament says that the Aaronic priesthood is null and void.  It says that Jesus is the one and only priest in the Melchizedek priesthood.  But it also does talk about Christians being priests (without labeling them as Aaronic or Melchizedek).  I was happy to see 1 Peter 2:9 mentioned in the question.  “But you 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 marvelous light.”  As priests Christians are to show forth God’s praises by talking about his great salvation – by talking about how we are perfected by Jesus’ one sacrifice. 

      We further teach that this applies to all believers, whether they are male or female – seeing that this obviously was addressed to both.  Therefore I was wondering how Mormons interpret this passage seeing that Mormonism restricts the priesthood to males. 




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