I’ve been thinking about priesthood lately.
I am currently reading an article on priesthood in the latest edition of Dialogue. Also, another blogger recently asked his readers what they think the definition of “fulness of the priesthood” is.
I think that is a really important question. One that is not easily answered in the scriptures, particularly when the term only shows up once.
I have stated before that I believe there is a really good chance that the term fulness of the priesthood is ultimately the same as fulness of the gospel.
The fulness… is the fulness..
I believe one of the few clear hints for the definition of the fulness of the Priesthood is found in section 66.
Notice how the Lord congratulates William McLellin for receiving the “everlasting covenant” even the “fulness of the gospel”.
1 BEHOLD, thus saith the Lord unto my servant William E. McLellin—Blessed are you, inasmuch as you have turned away from your iniquities, and have received my truths, saith the Lord your Redeemer, the Savior of the world, even of as many as believe on my name.
2 Verily I say unto you, blessed are you for receiving mine everlasting covenant, even the fulness of my gospel, sent forth unto the children of men, that they might have life and be made partakers of the glories which are to be revealed in the last days, as it was written by the prophets and apostles in days of old.
This is the only place in the entire D&C where the Lord specifically declares that a specific person has received the fulness of the Gospel. He implies it in other places using differing terminology. Obviously Joseph Smith and others also received the fulness of the gospel, but this is the only place using “fulness of the gospel” and he links it to an “everlasting covenant”.
What is the everlasting covenant being referred to?
It could be the baptismal covenant which must be entered into before one can receive the Melchizedek priesthood endowment, however, I believe it is more than that.
I find it interesting that William McLellin had just recently been called, by the voice of God out of heaven, to receive the Melchizedek priesthood. This took place less that a week before this revelation was given, which is also when he met Joseph Smith for the first time.
Therefore, the term “everlasting covenant” may also refer to the “Oath and Covenant” associated with the highest priesthood mentioned in section 84..
In one of his Nauvoo discourses, Joseph Smith spoke about the fact that there are three grand orders of priesthood.
He identified them as:
1- Levitical (Aaronic)
2- Abrahams Patriarchal Power
3- Melchizedek (who had still greater power. Even greater than a prophet, apostle or patriarch).
Section 84 speaks of these three orders of priesthood. It describes those holding the Aaronic priesthood as the “Sons of Aaron”. It describes those holding the Abrahamic Patriarchal priesthood as the “Sons of Moses”.
Both of those priesthoods are patriarchal.
In other words, they are based on what the Dialogue article refers to as patrilineal heritage.
Since patrilineal heritage is not commonly known among those of the House of Israel that have been mingled among the gentiles, Joseph Smith informed the gentile church that men must be called to the priesthood through the gift of prophecy.
In other words, a person’s rightful calling in the priesthood based on patrilineal heritage, must be identified by revelation.
The third and highest priesthood spoken of in section 84 describes the highest priesthood as the “Church of God“, the “Kingdom of God” and the “Elect of God“.
I believe those are simply other terms for Melchizedek priesthood and fulness of the priesthood.
It notes that one must first obtain one of the two patriarchal priesthoods of Moses and Aaron, and magnify it, before one can be “sanctified by the spirit unto the renewing of their bodies”.
This sanctification process apparently purges out any gentile blood as it infuses the candidate with the highest priesthood of the elect. (Melchizedek Priesthood- fulness of the priesthood)
There seem to be at least four very significant things that differentiate the Melchizedek priesthood from the two lesser patriarchal priesthoods
1- ORDAINED DIRECTLY BY GOD: While people are called and ordained to offices in the Aaronic and Patriarchal priesthoods by revelation, via, other mortal priesthood holders, God himself ordains the candidate to the Melchizedek Priesthood himself (D&C 50:26) by the calling of his own voice out of heaven (Gen 14:25-29) Unlike the lesser and higher priesthoods, the highest priesthood is delivered unto men according to the voice of God the Father.
2- WITHOUT FATHER OR MOTHER: Unlike the priesthood of Moses and Aaron, the Melchizedek priesthood is not a patriarchal priesthood. It is without father and mother and without beginning of days or end of years.
3- THE OATH AND COVENANT: The two lesser orders of priesthood do not require an oath and covenant while the Melchizedek Priesthood does require an oath and covenant, as addressed in section 84. People can hold patriarchal priesthood without entering into the baptismal covenant. Not so with the Fulness of the Priesthood.
4- POSSESSOR OF ALL THINGS: Those who rise up valiantly in the Melchizedek priesthood, ultimately being both called and chosen, receive an endowment of power from on high. At some point in time they are made a possessor of all things. (D&C 50) This means that all things in heaven and earth are subject to them. It has greater power than a prophet, apostle, or patriarch in the patriarchal order of priesthood.
We see this kind of priesthood power in the lives of Enoch and Melchizedek. Interestingly, just because a person is a possessor of all things, does not necessarily mean that they will be using their power to command the elements and overcome enemies. Some people are called to endure persecution.
We are informed in the scriptures that the priesthood of Moses and the Priesthood of Aaron are both appendages of the Melchizedek priesthood and that the priesthood of Aaron is an appendage of the priesthood of Moses.
I have created a pic from paint that depicts how I currently view the three priesthoods.
Click on the pic to enlarge