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The Mormon Priesthood


The Mormon church teaches that only its worthy male members can attain the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods, which grant God’s exclusive authority to ‘administer the ordinances of the gospel’, such as baptism, healing, sacrament, preaching, etc. Because these priesthoods have biblical origins, it is important to understand their biblical context.

Aaron / Levi


Aaron and his sons were set apart from the twelve tribes to perform service in the tabernacle, and later the temple.


The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ fulfilled the Judaic system, making its priestly offices obsolete.

By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament. And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death: 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. For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; 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. 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. Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens.

Holy Bible

— Hebrews



Christ rendered the Aaronic / Levitical priesthood obsolete, and the destruction of the Jewish temple in 70 AD guaranteed it. There is no basis in the Bible or Book of Mormon for a Christian Aaronic priesthood.



The book of Genesis mentions a priest / king named Melchizedek. There is no other biblical evidence of anyone practicing or being ordained into a ‘Melchizedek priesthood’. Only four verses in the Old Testament mention him:


Hebrews chapter 7 explains the ‘order of Melchizedek’—how he held a superior position over the Aaronic priests and how Jesus uniquely fulfills this prophetic type of a King / Priest.


There is no Biblical evidence in Judaism or Christianity, or even in the Book of Mormon, that any persons were ever ordained into a Melchizedek priesthood. Rather, the Order of Melchizedek was modeled after Jesus, who is the only person uniquely qualified to fulfill the prophetic King / Priest type.

The Mormon priesthoods

May 15
1832 1833 1835 1838
Joseph claims that John the Baptist ordained him to the Aaronic priesthood Joseph publishes Book of Mormon, no mention of Aaronic or Melchizedek priesthood in relation to church Joseph’s earliest history makes no mention of Aaron, Melchizedek, or John the Baptist Original revelations published with no mention of Aaronic priesthood Revelations altered to include John the Baptist D&C 2 & 13 written, backdated to 1829

Like the First Vision and the Moroni visitations, the appearance of John the Baptist conferring the Aaronic priesthood to Joseph Smith appears to be an afterthought. David Whitmer, a Book of Mormon witness, exposed the origins of the Mormon priesthoods.

This matter of the two orders of priesthood in the Church of Christ, and lineal priesthood of the old law being in the church, all originated in the mind of Sydney Rigdon.

David Whitmer

— David Whitmer

President of the Missouri church and Book of Mormon witness
An Address to all Believers in Christ, p. 64

This error was introduced at the instigation of Sydney Rigdon. The office of high priests was never spoken of, and never thought of being established in the church until Rigdon came in. Remember that we had been preaching from August 1829, until June, 1831—almost two years—and had baptized about 2,000 members in to the Church of Christ, and had not one high priest. During 1829, several times we were told by Brother Joseph that an elder was the highest office in the church.

David Whitmer

— David Whitmer

President of the Missouri church and Book of Mormon witness
An Address to all believers in Christ, p. 35

On the 3rd of June, the Elders from the various parts of the country they were laboring, came in.... and the authority of the Melchisedek Priesthood was manifested and conferred for the first time upon several of the Elders.

Joseph Smith

— Joseph Smith

Mormonism founder
History of the Church, Vol. 1, pp. 175-76

In a few years those revelations were changed to admit this high office, which otherwise would have condemned it. They were changed to mean something entirely different from the way they were first given and printed in the Book of Commandments; as if God had not thought of this great and important office when he gave those revelations.

David Whitmer

— David Whitmer

President of the Missouri church and Book of Mormon witness
An Address to all Believers in Christ, p. 46

Altered Revelations

An examination of the earliest revelations confirms David Whitmer's testimony. They were altered later to make it seem like the priesthood was part of the Mormon church from the beginning.

Behold, I will reveal unto you the Priesthood, by the hand of Elijah the prophet.

Joseph Smith

— Joseph Smith

Mormonism founder
"History, 1838-1856, volume A-1", published as Doctrine and Covenants, Section 2

Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah I confer the Priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; and this shall never be taken again from the earth, until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness.

Doctrine and Covenants

— Doctrine and Covenants

Section 13

Book of Commandments (1833)
Chapter XXIV
Doctrine and Covenants
Section 20

The Articles and Covenants of the church of Christ, given in Fayette, New-York, June, 1830.

Revelation on Church organization and government, given through Joseph Smith the Prophet, April 1830.

65 No person is to be ordained to any office in this church, where there is a regularly organized branch of the same, without the vote of that church;

66 But the presiding elders, traveling bishops, high councilors, high priests, and elders, may have the privilege of ordaining, where there is no branch of the church that a vote may be called.

67 Every president of the high priesthood (or presiding elder), bishop, high councilor, and high priest, is to be ordained by the direction of a high council or general conference.

Book of Commandments (1833)
Chapter XXVII
Doctrine and Covenants
Section 27

A Commandment to the church of Christ, given in Harmony, Pennsylvania, September 4, 1830.

Revelation given to Joseph Smith the Prophet, at Harmony, Pennsylvania, August 1830.

6 Behold this is wisdom in me, wherefore marvel not, for the hour cometh that I will drink of the fruit of the vine with you, on the earth, and with all those whom my Father hath given me out of the world:

5 Behold, this is wisdom in me; wherefore, marvel not, for the hour cometh that I will drink of the fruit of the vine with you on the earth, and with Moroni, whom I have sent unto you to reveal the Book of Mormon, containing the fulness of my everlasting gospel, to whom I have committed the keys of the record of the stick of Ephraim;

6 And also with Elias, to whom I have committed the keys of bringing to pass the restoration of all things spoken by the mouth of all the holy prophets since the world began, concerning the last days;

7 And also John the son of Zacharias, which Zacharias he (Elias) visited and gave promise that he should have a son, and his name should be John, and he should be filled with the spirit of Elias;

8 Which John I have sent unto you, my servants, Joseph Smith, Jun., and Oliver Cowdery, to ordain you unto the first priesthood which you have received, that you might be called and ordained even as Aaron;

9 And also Elijah, unto whom I have committed the keys of the power of turning the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to the fathers, that the whole earth may not be smitten with a curse;

10 And also with Joseph and Jacob, and Isaac, and Abraham, your fathers, by whom the promises remain;

11 And also with Michael, or Adam, the father of all, the prince of all, the ancient of days;

12 And also with Peter, and James, and John, whom I have sent unto you, by whom I have ordained you and confirmed you to be apostles, and especial witnesses of my name, and bear the keys of your ministry and of the same things which I revealed unto them;

13 Unto whom I have committed the keys of my kingdom, and a dispensation of the gospel for the last times; and for the fulness of times, in the which I will gather together in one all things, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth;

14 And also with all those whom my Father hath given me out of the world.

7 Wherefore lift up your hearts and rejoice, and gird up your loins and be faithful until I come:—even so. Amen.

15 Wherefore, lift up your hearts and rejoice, and gird up your loins, and take upon you my whole armor, that ye may be able to withstand the evil day, having done all, that ye may be able to stand. 16 Stand, therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, having on the breastplate of righteousness, and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, which I have sent mine angels to commit unto you; 17 Taking the shield of faith wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked; 18 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of my Spirit, which I will pour out upon you, and my word which I reveal unto you, and be agreed as touching all things whatsoever ye ask of me, and be faithful until I come, and ye shall be caught up, that where I am ye shall be also. Amen.

No Record of Melchizedek Priesthood

The promise to confer upon Joseph and Oliver the Melchisedek Priesthood was fulfilled; but as there is no definite account of the event in the history of the Prophet Joseph, or, for matter of that, in any of our annals.

B. H.Roberts

— B. H. Roberts

Mormon Seventy and Church Historian
History of the Church, Vol. 1. p. 40


Joseph did not tell anyone about John the Baptist at first. Summarizing the key events in his religious life in an 1830 statement, he mentioned translation but said nothing about the restoration of priesthood or the visit of an angel. The first compilation of revelations in 1833 also omitted an account of John the Baptist. David Whitmer later told an interviewer he had heard nothing of John the Baptist until four years after the Church's organization. Not until writing his 1832 history did Joseph include "reception of the holy Priesthood by the ministering of angels to administer the letter of the Gospel" among the cardinal events of his history, a glancing reference at best.... The late appearances of these accounts raises the possibility of later fabrication.

Richard L. Bushman

— Richard L. Bushman

LDS Historian, Prof. BYU
Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling, p. 75

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