Saturday, September 3, 2016


Two scenarios

1) An 18 year priest in the Church baptized his younger sister on Saturday. The day before, he broke the law of chastity with his girlfriend. Years pass and the sister gets married in the temple and afterwards learn about what happened the night before her baptism. Is her baptism valid? Her endowment? Her sealing? Does she have to do it all again?

2) Two young lovers were sealed in the local temple on Saturday. The day before, the sealer commits an act of domestic violence against his wife. Years pass, children are born to the couple and tragic strikes–the husband is killed in a traffic accident. At the same time, the sealer is tried in court and convicted for his crimes against his family. Was there even a sealing performed? Was there an actual covenant under which the children were born? Is the family eternal?

These scenarios aren't extreme nor unthinkable. Tough questions arise when we ponder them. We'd like the answers to be simple, and maybe they are. But we can't dodge the issue of whether righteousness is a prerequisite for priesthood power, the use of priesthood "keys" and the efficacy of ordinances.

(I've written about ordinances here. You might want to check that out before we move on.)

To be [righteous], or not to be [righteous], that is the question!

In my mind, it's hard to argue that righteousness isn't required for priesthood. If we say that you don't have to be perfect to have and with power use the priesthood, how bad can you be before you're too bad? If we say that righteousness isn't required, why is the Church putting so much focus on the avoidance of porn and other moral issues?

If we say that a priesthood holder has to be righteous to use it, then, as in the scenarios above, what happens to the ordinances performed by unrighteous priesthood holders? The effect can be quite scary since the Church trace priesthood authority through lines going back to the three witnesses and Joseph Smith. What if something was amiss in the early 1900's when someone was ordained to priesthood? The effects grow exponentially. We might, by this reasoning, have a big chunk of members who might not have been properly baptized. From an eternal perspective, this is most likely a pretty big deal.

This would create a disorder that feels antithetical to the order we believe that God's house is in and we therefore must revert to the opinion that righteousness isn't required. But, hey, that doesn't feel right! Welcome to a disturbing paradox and conundrum.

Sorting things out

There are different priesthoods - a lower and a higher. I don't know remotely close to everything about this. As a matter of fact, I know very little. What I share here is what I've picked up from reading the scriptures and pondering the questions.

Anyhow, a higher and a lower priesthood.

The lower priesthood - preparatory

Simply put, the lower performs rituals that point to and invite the participants to a real interaction with God. For example, the endowment means nothing if we don't follow it where it points us - to the veil where we can truly converse with the Lord. It's like acting a part in a play and rehearsing a lot but never go to the actual premiere. We learn the part but never act it out on stage in front of an audience and therefore don't get the full experience. In the book of life, only those who actually perform on stage will be mentioned...

We read that the "lesser priesthood […] holdeth the key of the ministering of angels and the preparatory gospel; Which gospel is the gospel of repentance and of baptism, and the remission of sins, and the law of carnal commandments, which the Lord in his wrath caused to continue with the house of Aaron among the children of Israel until John, whom God raised up, being filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother’s womb." (D&C 84:26-27) 

We also read that, "The power and authority of the lesser, or Aaronic Priesthood, is to hold the keys of the ministering of angels, and to administer in outward ordinances, the letter of the gospel, the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, agreeable to the covenants and commandments." (D&C 107:20)

The preparatory and symbolical ordinances belongs to the lower priesthood, whereas the higher priesthood circumscribe the spiritual blessings of God.

The higher priesthood - a relationship with the powers of heaven

The higher priesthood reaches a lot higher than the lesser priesthood. It seems that there's no only a difference in quality, but in quantity as well–it's a much larger priesthood that reaches into the heavens. We read, 

  • The power and authority of the higher, or Melchizedek Priesthood, is to hold the keys of all the spiritual blessings of the church–To have the privilege of receiving the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, to have the heavens opened unto them, to commune with the general assembly and church of the Firstborn, and to enjoy the communion and presence of God the Father, and Jesus the mediator of the new covenant. (D&C 107:18-19)
It should be clear to us that the privileges of the higher, or Melchizedek Priesthood, goes vastly beyond anything that we've heard anyone in church testify of (please let me know if your experience differ from mine).

When incarcerated in Liberty Jail, Joseph penned these immortal words.

the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness. (D&C 121:36)
If any man tries to use "his" priesthood "in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man." (D&C 121:37)

The qualities needed to use priesthood power and authority with the blessings of heaven include, but are not limited to, persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness and meekness, love unfeigned, kindness, pure knowledge, without hypocrisy, and without guile. (D&C 121:41-42)

To receive and use the higher priesthood after the order of Jesus, a person has to have a heart like his. Like Nephi, who sought not his own life, but the will of Jesus to such a degree that Jesus knew that he would "not ask that which is contrary to my will." (Hel. 10:4-5) Or like those who were "approved of God [and] ordained an high priest after the order of the covenant which God made with Enoch" and who had faith, and the will to "do all things according to his will, according to his command" and also "by the will of the Son of God [this points to the fact that they had a clear line of communication and did what they did on his invitation or command]." (JST Gen. 14:27-32)

The higher priesthood consists of a relationship (a brother-, or priesthood) with the divine and is not based on transferring of authority from man to man. The Lord gives it "by mine own voice out of the heavens." (D&C 84:42) This authority to do God's work on earth is fragile, for only a person with a godly mind, actions and heart can wield it's power.

My guess is that the ordinances of the higher priesthood aren't very like the ones performed in the temples. Any person who meets the qualifications set by the church can enter the temple, receive their endowment and be sealed. This means nothing, as long as the Holy Spirit of Promise doesn't seal them up. Those who do have the sealing power act through revelation. God would tell/show them that there is, for example, a couple who are ready to be sealed for real, and they do it. What's done in the temples of the church is, at best, an invitation to seek an actual sealing.


Those who truly represent God are like him, for unto no one else is the authority or the charge given to do his work. There is room for imperfections, but not for unrighteousness. This might cause us to believe there is no order. But, there is, it's called the Holy Priesthood, after the Order of the Son of God