Apparent Discrepancies Pertaining to Priesthood

There are numerous apparent discrepancies pertaining to what has been written about the priesthood that make this topic very confusing.

I am going to discuss a few of these at this time.

If you feel you have a firm understanding of priesthood at this point you may wish to skip over this section of this post.

I personally feel that it was in Gods will for there to be confusion regarding many things pertaining to the LDS foundation movement and restoration of the priesthood in the latter days.

We are told that blindness would be upon Israel. However, we are also told that the time would come when the darkness would disperse and the light would shine forth.

I believe that the darkness is slowly beginning to disperse and that people are being prepared to receive Gods servants when they return in the 3rd watch to begin the Marvelous Work.

Apparent discrepancy #1 In 1835 section 107 was given which states “There are, in the church, two apriesthoods, namely, the Melchizedek and bAaronic, including the Levitical Priesthood.”

Yet in a discourse given in August of 1843 Joseph Smith identifies the Aaronic, Patriarchal and Melchizedek priesthoods and says “Abrahams Patriarchal power..  is the greatest yet  experienced in THIS church” (Manuscript History of the Church Ms/d/4409; August 27, 1843; CHD; Franklin D. Richards “Scriptural Items”)

Is that a contradiction?


Up until about 1834 the Melchizedek priesthood was present in the Church of Christ because that highest priesthood had been restored in 1831 at the Morley Farm. However as a result of the Saints failure to live consecration, and to redeem Zion, we are later informed in section 124 that the fullness of the priesthood had been lost. We know that during the apostasy of the church in Kirtland, the name of the church was changed to the Church of the Latter Day Saints. Hence, that is the church that Joseph Smith was referring to in 1843 when he said that the patriarchal priesthood was the greatest priesthood yet experienced in that church.

It is also important to realize that according to Joseph Smith, all priesthood is Melchizedek. He obviously meant that all priesthood is a higher or lesser portion of Melchizedek priesthood. In that sense, it would not be surprising if the patriarchal priesthood was at times referred to as Melchizedek priesthood even though it is not the highest order of the Melchizedek priesthood.

Apparent discrepancy #2. Joseph smith taught that “all priesthood is Melchizedek”.

Again, I would submit, that since the Melchizedek priesthood governs the Patriarch and Aaronic priesthoods, that the statement is true, all priesthood is Melchizedek.

Nevertheless, sometimes the word Melchizedek is used in a broad global sense to include all three divisions, sometimes it is used to distinguish the higher and highest from the lesser, and sometimes it is used exclusively to refer to the Highest Priesthood, ie, High Priest.

It is fascinating to observe the evolution of the use of the word Melchizedek priesthood in early church history. The following observations were taken from the baop website;

Virtually all present occurrences of the word “priesthood” in historical texts of this time period (~1831) (aside from Book of Mormon passages) reflect retroactive insertions. New England protestants tended to view the word with some misgivings, making the connection to European Catholicism.

“Mechizedek priesthood” is a term that fails to occur in any contempory revelation or document at this period. Some of the early revelations (like D&C 20 and D&C 68) were updated to reflect the term at the 1835 publication of the D&C. The Moroni visit reference to Elijah revealing the “Priesthood” was not written until 1838.

Until 1834, there is no official reference to “priesthood” as a separate notion, there were only “offices” to which a man might be “ordained.”

At the time of these events, there was no formal distinction between the “authority pools” from which offices were drawn, the only difference between ‘teacher,’ ‘priest,’ and ‘elder’ was defined in the list of duties in the Articles [D&C 20].

Hence the term Melchizedek Priesthood may have been synonymous for Joseph and other early leaders, if they even knew the term, with the office of “high priest” (Mechizedek’s priesthood). [See for example, The Journals of William E. McLellin, ed. John W. Welch, Jan Shipps, (BYU Studies and University of Illinois Press, 1994) 283.]

Thus the notion of “priesthood” in 1831 was quite different from its later incarnation (ca. 1835). The differences are well illustrated by the two “priesthood revelations” [D&C 84 and D&C 107:1-58] from these periods. The “two priesthoods” mentioned in D&C 84 are the “lesser priesthood” and the “high priesthood and the “elect” represents the third and highest priesthood.

It is apparent that the term Melchizedek was not being used in the Church prior to the restoration of the highest priesthood in 1831. It was clearly used by Lyman, Joseph and others to describe the event at the Morley Farm. However the use of the term in scripture was somewhat evolutionary.

Apparent discrepancy #3 is that Joseph and Lyman stated that the Melchizedek priesthood was restored for the first time at the Morley farm while David Whitmer claims that he had been told by Joseph that the apostolic priesthood that was restored by Peter James and John was the highest priesthood.

Again, I would submit that we are dealing with semantics and time sensitive statements. At the time Joseph made that statement, the patriarchal priesthood was the highest priesthood in the church and, since all priesthood is Melchizedek, he may very well have referred to it as such.

Apparent discrepancy #4 has to do with the fact that even though the highest priesthood is not a priesthood based on lineage like the priesthood of Aaron and the priesthood of Moses/Abraham, the fact of the matter is that according to modern revelation, a gentile cannot be elected to it unless he does obtain and magnify at least one of the lesser priesthoods! Hence the lesser two priesthoods play an essential role in obtaining the highest priesthood.

Apparent discrepancy #5 is in the fact that the whole purpose of the patriarchal priesthood of Moses/Abraham is to merge into the highest priesthood and therefore some of the phraseology pertaining to the priesthood begins speaking about the lineage priesthood and merges into the priesthood without father and mother. If you don’t have a foundation of understanding, it is easy to assume that the patriarchal priesthood is the highest priesthood.

Apparent discrepancy #6 has to do with priesthood keys. It is easy to make the assumption that anyone holding the keys of the Kingdom has already entered into the kingdom. THIS IS NOT NECESSARILY CORRECT!

By way of analogy, I can purchase a house which is locked and be handed the keys to it. The fact that I have the keys that can unlock the house does not mean that I am in it or that I have ever been in it.

Now, taking the analogy to real life, lets look at the case of individuals like Lyman Wight and David Whiter who had been given the priesthood keys before entering into the kingdom…

In 1829 John the Baptist restored the Aaronic priesthood to the earth. Shortly after that, Peter James and John restored the “higher priesthood”.

Several of the early elders and apostles of the restored Church of Christ such as David Whitmore and Lyman Wight were ordained to that “higher priesthood” that Peter James and John restored.

This priesthood ordination gave them the keys to the kingdom, or, in other words, the keys to the church, which, by definition is the authority to administer the saving ordinances of the Gospel .(see D&C 42: 69 )

It enabled them to administer the saving ordinances of the Gospel which includes the new and everlasting covenant of Baptism.

Initially, after entering into the oath of the Father as contained in section 20, one receives the baptism of water and the confirmation wherein the recipient is invited to receive the Holy Ghost. The reception of the Holy Ghost after (and even before, in some documented cases) is predicated on the worthiness of the recipient.

I would submit that this first endowment of the Holy Ghost that is referred to as the “gift of the holy ghost” does not necessarily represent the “constant companionship of the Holy Ghost

If you will do a “key phrase” search of “gift of the holy ghost”, you will find that it is never associated with having a constant companionship with the Holy Ghost.

In fact do a key phrase search of “constant companionship” and you will see it does not show up in the four standard works… although the concept, using differing terminology does.

The normal chronology for receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost is to be baptized by water and then confirmed by the laying on of hands. Then the Lord blesses the righteous with the gift.

15 And whoso having faith you shall aconfirm in my church, by the laying on of the bhands, and I will bestow the cgift of the Holy Ghost upon them. D&C 33: 15

Nevertheless, there are times in the New Testament when believers received the gift of the Holy Ghost first, then got baptized;

While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.

45 And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the aGentiles also was poured out the bgift of the Holy Ghost.

46 For they heard them speak with atongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter,

47 Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the aHoly Ghost as well as we?

48 And he commanded them to be abaptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.

According to the scriptures, following the baptism of water, confirmation and the reception of the gift of the holy Ghost, one needs to receive the baptism of fire and the baptism of the Holy Ghost.

The gift of the Holy Ghost is not the baptism of fire nor is it the baptism of the Holy Ghost.

The preparatory ordinances of water baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost enable the recipient to show forth faith and repentance by keeping the outer ordinance of baptism by water and confirmation

Upon faithfulness, the Father sends the spiritual priesthood endowment by calling the recipient to the priesthood by his own voice out of the heavens. After being called, if the recipient is humble, he is transfigured by the Gory of God and sees the Father and the Son. This is the Baptism of Fire.

I think one can make a strong case for the fact that the experience that Wight had at the Morley Farm was synonymous to what the scriptures refer to as the of baptism of fire.

Later on in section 88, when the Lord pronounced some of the High Priest clean and sanctified, he  gave them the “other comforter”, that is what the scriptures appear to refer to as the baptism of the Holy Ghost.

The following, passages are speaking about those who gain an inheritance in the celestial kingdom and it illustrates the first and last in the relationship that a follower has with the Holy Ghost;

“That by akeeping the commandments they might be bwashed and ccleansed from all their sins, and receive the Holy Spirit by the laying on of the dhands of him who is eordained and sealed unto this power; (that is the intermittent “Gift of the Holy Ghost”)

53 And who aovercome by faith, and are bsealed by the Holy Spirit of cpromise, which the Father dsheds forth upon all those who are just and true. (that is the constant companionship of the Second comforter which is the promise of eternal life. It is given AFTER the baptism of Fire sanctifies the recipient)

54 They are they who are the achurch of the bFirstborn.”

The following four steps show the initial remission of sins by the Spirit of Christ followed by the three levels of relationship with the Holy Ghost,

1- Remission of sins by Spirit of Christ

2- Gift of the Holy Ghost

3- Sanctified by the power of the Holy Ghost by the will of the Father

4- Baptized by the Holy Ghost- the promise of eternal life

The fact that a patriarchal priesthood holder holds the keys of the kingdom by being authorized to administer the saving ordinances of the gospel, does not categorically mean that he himself has used those saving ordinances to entered into the kingdom.

A person can be ordained to the patriarchal priesthood and hold the keys of the saving ordinances of the gospel and yet still not be called or elected to the highest priesthood by the Father.

This is illustrated by the fact that Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer and Lyman Wight  had been given the keys and had been administering them for nearly two years prior to the special conference, yet none of them had been called by God to the Highest Priesthood until the special conference at the Morley Farm.

Although Lyman Wight was a man of great faith and had been a valiant missionary, dispensing the keys of the kingdom to new converts during the first few years after the restoration of the Aaronic and Patriarchal priesthood, he himself had entered into the gate by water baptism and the gift of the holy ghost, but he had not yet been endowed with a greater priesthood endowment until the special conference in 1831 at the Morley Farm.

He had not yet previously received the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost.

David Whitmer and Oliver Cowdery were ordained High Priests shortly after the special conference but there is not historical documentation to suggest that either of them ever received the fire.

David’s eventual rejection of the restoration of the Melchizedek priesthood and the events that took place at the special conference would indicate that he never did enter into the fire during the 2nd watch.

Apparently Discrepancy #8 Some people assume that a Prophet is the highest office and/or title in the priesthood. This theory is very problematic.

First of all I question whether a prophet or a seer or a revelator or a translator is actually a priesthood “office”. I realize the scriptures state that the “president of the high priesthood” is to be all of those things, but are those priesthood offices, in the sense that the “president of the high priesthood” or a “high priest” or an “elder” is?, or are those spiritual gifts that they are blessed with?

The following quote seems to indicate they are gifts associated with the office;

91 And again, the duty of the President of the office of the High Priesthood is to apreside over the whole church, and to be like unto bMoses

92 Behold, here is wisdom; yea, to be a aseer, a brevelator, a translator, and a cprophet, having all the dgifts of God which he bestows upon the head of the church.

While that is one way to prove that a prophet is not the highest office,  one could argue whether that  statement also means that a prophet is a priesthood office or if it is saying that an apostle is greater BECAUSE a prophet is not a priesthood office. For that matter, we know that an apostle holds the keys of the kingdom, that is not necessarily true of a prophet.

It seems to me that anyone, including a little child, can be blessed with the gift of prophecy and yet not hold the keys of the kingdom like an Apostle does.

One thing that leads me to believe that a prophet is not a priesthood office is that it is never mentioned as such in the scriptures that I am aware of.

Another thing that JS said that leads me to believe that a prophet is not an office is his following statement;

a prophet is a prophet only when he was acting as such”.

That statement would agree that a prophet is an intermittent spiritual gift based on righteousness, not a priesthood office which is constant state during the calling.

It should be remembered that the calling of the president of the Church who is both a  Prophet and an Apostle was already in the church of Christ BEFORE the fullness of the Melchizedek priesthood was given in 1831. That would be Joseph;

1 Behold, there shall be a arecord kept among you; and in it thou shalt be called a bseer, a translator, a prophet, an capostle of Jesus Christ, an elder of the church through the will of God the Father, and the grace of your Lord Jesus ChristD&C 21: 1

Not withstanding the fact that Joseph held those offices and the gift of prophecy, yet God called him to be a High Priest AFTER he was called to be a prophet and apostle. That is another evidence that the calling of a prophet is not the highest priesthood.

The following statement provides yet another evidence that the Melchizedek priesthood is a higher priesthood authority than that of being a prophet;

Joseph Smith said, “…the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood was manifested and conferred for the first time upon several of the Elders. [including himself!] It was clearly evident that the Lord gave us power in proportion to the work to be done, and strength according to the race set before us, and grace and help as our needs required.” History of The Church, 1:175-177

If Joseph had already been called to be a seer, which according to the book of Mormon is greater than a prophet! Then how could being a prophet be the highest priesthood in the church?

The following passage in the book of Mormon reveals that being a seer is greater than being a prophet,

And the king said that a aseer is greater than a prophet. And Ammon said that a seer is a revelator and a prophet also; and a gift which is greater can no man have, except he should possess the power of God, which no man can; yet a man may have great power given him from God.” Mosiah 8: 15-16

Furthermore, a revelation was given about four months after the Melchizedek priesthood was restored to help the Saints understand where and how this highest priesthood fit into the existing Church of Christ. It was contained in the Kirtland Revelation Book;

To the church of Christ in the land of Zion in addition to the Church Laws respecting church business verily I say unto you saith the Lord of Hosts there must needs be presiding Elders to preside over those who are of the office of a priest and also teachers over those who are of the office of a teacher and also the Deacons wherefore from Deacon to Teacher and from Teacher to Priest and from Priest to Elder severally as they are appointed according to the  Covenants…..

Then cometh the High Priesthood which is the greatest of allwherefore it must needs be that one be appointed of the high Priesthood to preside over the Priesthood and he shall be called President of the high priesthood of the Church or in other words the presiding high Priest over the high priesthood of the Church from the same Cometh the administering of ordinances and blessings [85] upon the church…”

Clearly, the patriarchal priesthood which contains the offices of elders and apostles had been presiding over the church prior to the restoration of the Melchizedek priesthood. Once the Lord began ordaining high priests, they were the greatest of all in the Church and they held a higher priesthood than apostles and elders.

Although this revelation which was recorded in the Kirtland Revelation book, never made it into the Book of commandments as a separate and distinct revelation, several years later, it was annexed into section 107 (verses 59-100 with some modifications made.. scroll down on the following page to see a comparison between the KRB and the D&C)

Finally, we have this quote from Joseph Smith verifying that the highest priesthood named after Melchizedek had greater power than prophets, apostles and patriarchs!

That of Melchizedek who had still greater power even power of an endless life of which was our Lord Jesus Christ which also Abraham obtained by the offering of his son Isaac which was not the power of a Prophet nor apostle nor patriarch only, but of King & Priest to God to open the windows of heaven and pour out the peace & Law of endless Life to man &No man can attain to the Joint heirship with Jesus Christ with out being administered to by one having the same power and authority of Melchizedek.” Words of Joseph Smith 245

This brings up Apparent Discrepancy #9.

If Joseph Smith did not hold the Highest Priesthood before the special conference, how was he able to open the heavens as an administrator during the event?

It is important to realize that all Joseph was doing at the Morley Farm, initially, was receiving revelation from God as to who was to be called and ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood. The patriarchal priesthood has the keys by which to ask and receive revelations.

Apparent discrepancy 10 this last discrepancy is really not an apparent discrepancy, it is just a false doctrine. It come from Brigham Young and it provides the fuel that fire the false doctrines of our day about priesthood.

“Now will it cause some of you to marvel that I was not ordained a High Priest before I was ordained an apostle? It was William McLellin who told Joseph that I and Heber were not ordained High Priests, and wanted to know if it should not be done.

Said Joseph, “Will you insult the priesthood? Is that all the knowledge you have of the office of an Apostle? Do you not know that the man who receives the apostleship receives all the keys that ever were, or that can be conferred upon mortal man?

When a man is ordained to be an Apostle, his Priesthood is without beginning of days, or end of life, like the Priesthood of Melchizedek; for it was his Priesthood that was spoken of in this language, and not the man. Ref Here

Furthermore, the Prophet Joseph clearly taught that recipients
of that apostleship possess “all the keys that ever were, or that can
be conferred upon mortal man.” (Cited by Brigham Young, in Journal of
Discourses, 1:137.)


7 Responses to Apparent Discrepancies Pertaining to Priesthood

  1. Ryan says:

    How are see to understand the use of High Priest in Abr. 1:2?

    It seems that this ordination was more patriarchal in nature.

  2. That passage is a little confusing in the ancient use of words being applied.

    Actually, I would submit that, that passage is very possibly referring to the Melchizedek office of High Priest. I realize that the phrase “the right belonging to the fathers” in verse 2 makes it sound like patriarchal priesthood, however, the right of the righteous patriarchal fathers is to become a high priest when called to that office by the voice of God out of heaven… beside, we don’t know if “fathers” in that passage is referring to mortal patriarchal fathers or those spoken of in the Book of Abraham that were in the council in the pre-existence.

    Remember, the term fathers normally refers to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob… but in this passage, it is Abraham that is using it, before the term became associated with him and his sons.

    The elect of God with patriarchal priesthood do eventually inherit the right to have the highest order of priesthood.

    Notice how verse 4 says he sought for his appointment according to the “appointment of God” rather than the appointment of man.

    That is what differentiates the highest priesthood from the other two… it sounds quite similar to the phrase in the OT about being called by the voice of God out of heaven.

    I will say this, however, I do believe that many of the times that the term “high priest” is used in the OT and NT, it is just referring to a lesser order of the office and not to the highest priesthood. In fact I have an article I started working on a few years ago that I never finished, that details how the office of “High Priest” evolved into a lesser calling during times of apostasy.

    Obviously the Jewish High Priests at the time of Christ were just hollow shirts walking around and during the Nauvoo era we know that the High Priests that still called themselves high priests were just a shadow of the real power they were supposed to enjoy.

  3. Ryan says:

    Interesting article. I’d love to see it or “nudge” you to finish it amongst the other hundreds of other projects you have going on. 🙂

    So from what I am reading he could have been called as a high priest either out of heaven from God or maybe from an apostate father?

    Didn’t JS say that Abraham received the MP after sacrificing Isaac?

    Maybe this is my confusion, there are those that are ordained and called out of heaven like the 23 elders to the office of High Priest but to have the heavens opened up unto them is another, completely different thing. There are two parts: 1) The calling and 2) The election.

    Was this just Abraham’s calling and not his election which didn’t come until after he sacrificed Isaac.

    So the Morley Farm experience was the calling portion for many. Obviously not for Lyman Wight, he was elected as well at that time.

    Which leads me to something I’ve been meaning to ask you. Have you written on the history of the priesthood?

    I’ve been studying it and it’s all over the place. In fact, when did the Aaronic priesthood become Aaronic? I mean in the temple we’re taught that Adam received the Aaronic Priesthood in the garden, but was there a separation in the priesthood initially? I really don’t believe that there was that it was all Melchizedek and the patriarchal portion was handed down from father to son until God called someone out of heaven to ordain them to the highest priesthood. It wasn’t until the children of Israel rejected the higher and highest priesthood that they were given the lesser priesthood.


  4. Ryan says:

    Is the fullness of the priesthood given upon the calling or the election part? I would say upon the election, but an open to hear otherwise.

  5. Great question

    Lots of semantics to play with. It was said that the 23 were given the Melchizedek Priesthood but after some sell away the Lord pointed out that many had been called but few were chosen. Apparently you can be called but not chosen. Ultimately, upon faith(fulness) one must be elected and sealed up to eternal life. I am still not totally clear in my mind what the total protocol is.

  6. Great questions. I have not really ever studied priesthood from a chronology perspective..

  7. Ryan says:

    Wow, that BOAP find from the KRB is a great find. I just finished reading it. So much knowledge.

    While reading with my wife tonight we happened upon this passage and you came to mind…

    15 For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.

    16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.

    (Matthew 13:15-16)

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