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Priesthood

1. How did Joseph Smith see God without the priesthood?
2. How does the Mormon church explain having thirteen living Apostles?
3. According to Hebrews 7:24, the Melchizedek Priesthood is unchangeable (intransferable).
4. How does a Mormon explain the case of Cornelius?
5. Why not use the "fruit of the vine" in the "sacrament" service?
6. Why does the church have boy deacons?
7. How can a man who is not a descendant of Aaron hold the Aaronic Priesthood?
8. Why were the Blacks denied the priesthood?
9. Did not Joseph Smith give women priesthood power in the temple endowment ritual?

1. Joseph Smith stated that without the ordinances and authority of the priesthood no man can see the face of God and live (D & C 84:21, 22). He also said that he saw God in 1820 (Joseph Smith 2:17). Joseph Smith, however, never received any priesthood until 1829 (D & C 13:). How did he see God and survive? In which was he in error: his revelation in D & C 84:21, 22 or his experience in the grove?

A: Neither was in error. In this scripture (D & C 84:21, 22), Joseph Smith is actually repeating something that Moses said while trying to get his people, who did have access to the priesthood and ordinances, to become sanctified so they could 'behold the face of God" (See verse 23).

Also, the Lord made it a requirement, at the time he gave this revelation, that a man must hold the priesthood and have received its ordinances in order to see God. The Lord said: "this revelation...is in force from this very hour upon all the world..."(D&C 84:75). This would mean that prior to this revelation, neither the priesthood nor its ordinances were necessary for a man to see the face of God and live. When Joseph Smith went into the grove to pray, he had not been ordained to the priesthood by someone on the earth, neither had he received any of the ordinances. When the two personages appeared they forgave him of his sins, making it possible for Joseph to see the face of God and live.

In 1966 Joseph Fielding Smith had this to say:

If you will look at the date of this revelation, you will discover that it was given in September 1832, which was two years after the organization of the Church and several years after the appearance of the Father and the Son to the Prophet Joseph Smith. Therefore, permit me to emphasize this fact: There is no law or commandment which declares that the Father could not appear to a man in person when the Holy Priesthood was not among men on the earth. In this day when the divine authority is here and men are appointed to officiate in its ordinances, there is no occasion for the Father to come to any man who has no divine authority. At a time when the priesthood is conferred, and there are authorized servants who bear divine authority, there could hardly arise a time when the Father and the Son should have occasion to appear to any man who was without that authority.

There are also other scriptural passages which indicate a person must have qualities other than the priesthood to see God. The Doctrine & Covenants states: "No man hath seen God at any time in the flesh, except quickened by the Spirit of God" After all is said and done, we find several aspects to the subject of seeing God. No doubt today men must hold the priesthood to see God, but prior to the restoration of the Priesthood, this was not necessarily so. At the time of the First Vision, what was required to see God was humility, faith, and the spirit of God.

2. If the Apostle John is still alive on the earth, how does the Mormon church explain having thirteen living Apostles? (see D & C 7:1-3).

A: In a few verses later God says this about John: D&C 7:6 "Yea, he has undertaken a greater work; therefore I will make him as flaming fire and a ministering angel; he shall minister for those who shall be heirs of salvation who dwell on the earth." John has undertaken a greater work as a "ministering angel" and no longer would serve as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles.
Actually, the first presidency and a few others are also called apostles. They however are not set apart as members of the "Quorum of the Twelve" which always has only twelve members. An Apostle is an ordination in the priesthood. Once one is ordained an Apostle they never give it up.

3. According to Hebrews 7:24, the Melchizedek Priesthood is unchangeable (intransferable). Why do Mormons pass it from one to another?

A: What makes you think that unchangeable means intransferable? This translation stems from an 1889 citation from Thayer's lexicon which nowadays is contradicted by the best authorities in the field. The lexicon of Arndt-Gingrich (in agreement with Moulton-Milligan) gives more than a dozen secular uses of the period to show that the term in question (aparabatos) "rather has the sense permanent, unchangeable." The point of the passage is not that Christ's priesthood cannot be transferred, but that it permanently remains superior and that the nature of it does not change.

4. If no person ever receives the Holy Spirit before baptism or without the laying on of hands, how does a Mormon explain the case of Cornelius? (see Acts 10:44-47).

A: The Spirit can influence a non-baptized person for brief periods of time as is the case with Cornelius and those with him. If not, no one would ever be converted to the Gospel. To have the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost however, requires baptism and the laying on of hands.(Acts 2:38, 8:18)

5. A major emphasis of Mormonism is that the Mormon church is the restored church, with everything practiced as it was in the early church. Why then have the Mormon leaders failed to restore the Scriptural practice of using the "fruit of the vine" in the "sacrament" service? Why is water used? (Matthew 26:28, 29 and D & C 89:5, 6).

A: It's cheaper. Joseph received revelation from God explaining that it is all right to use water to represent the blood of Christ. DC 27:2 "For, behold, I say unto you, that it mattereth not what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink when ye partake of the sacrament, if it so be that ye do it with an eye single to my glory--remembering unto the Father my body which was laid down for you, and my blood which was shed for the remission of your sins."

6. If the Mormon church is organized according to the pattern of the Bible, why do they have boy deacons? (1 Timothy 3:8-12).

A: It is organized according to the pattern of the Bible. It depends on your definition of "pattern". The latter-day church follows a general pattern similar to the New Testament in that it has all the same positions and officers. However, the pattern need not be so strict as to require a certain age. Even some of the duties and responsibilities of a particular position may be slightly different than they used to be to allow for situations and conditions that are different than those of the ancient church.

7. How can a man who is not a descendant of Aaron hold the Aaronic Priesthood? (Numbers 16:40; Hebrews 7:13, 14).

A: The Aaronic Priesthood was handed down from Arron through his seed until it came to John the Baptist. John the Baptist was directed by God to confer it upon Joseph Smith. In the Restoration, the Aaronic Priesthood has not been restricted to those who are literal descendants of Aaron or of Levi, since those lineages are not at present identified. Also, the priesthood authority that implemented the ordinances of the Law of Moses has been replaced by the higher priesthood and laws and ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

8. Before 1978 the Blacks were denied the priesthood. Doesn't this prove that Mormons were prejudiced against them?

A. In most religions and cultures there will always be a few who are prejudiced. However, the Church, its leaders and most members denounce the viewpoint that one race is either superior or inferior to other races. A statement by the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in 1987 says:

"We repudiate efforts to deny to any person his or her inalienable dignity and rights on the abhorrent and tragic theory of the superiority of one race or color over another." (Church Global Media Guide)

President Spencer W. Kimball taught:
"We do wish that there would be no racial prejudice_. Racial prejudice is of the devil_. There is no place for it in the gospel of Jesus Christ. (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, pp. 236).

Church critics today try to associate the Church with widespread prejudice against Blacks. What is especially ironic about this false attack is that the anti-Mormons of the 1830's tried to stir up passions against the Church based upon Latter-day Saint opposition to slavery as summarized in our scriptures:
"... it is not right that any man should be in bondage one to another." (D&C 101:79)

It is true until 1978, Blacks of African descent were not eligible to hold the priesthood or participate in certain temple ordinances. It should be noted that the issue was one of genealogy and not skin pigmentation. For example, Black men from non-African descent were allowed to hold the priesthood. On the other hand, Caucasian, Asian, and Hispanic men who had some Black African ancestry were not allowed to hold the priesthood.
Before 1978 many leaders of the Church fully expected that those of African decent would someday receive the priesthood. Otherwise, we would not be able to take the full blessings of the gospel to "every nation , kindred, and tongue"(D&C 133:37) as we have been commanded.
In 1978 President Spencer W. Kimball finally received the long awaited revelation which would bring this about. Since then, all members of the Church have been eligible to participate in all priesthood and temple blessings. Blacks, including African races, have always (both before and after 1978) been allowed baptism in the Church. In addition, while many denominations have historically segregated their Churches (i.e., blacks in one building, whites in another), Latter-day Saints have always had an integrated congregation.

President Spencer W. Kimball taught:
"Intolerance by Church members is despicable. A special problem exists with respect to blacks because they may not now [1972] receive the priesthood. Some members of the Church would justify their own un-Christian discrimination against blacks because of that rule with respect to the priesthood, but while this restriction has been imposed by the Lord, it is not for us to add burdens upon the shoulders of our black brethren. They who have received Christ in faith through authoritative baptism are heirs to the celestial kingdom along with men of all other races. And those who remain faithful to the end may expect that God may finally grant them all blessings they have merited through their righteousness. Such matters are in the Lord's hands. It is for us to extend our love to all." (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p.237)
As we can see, members of the Church were specifically charged not to use the priesthood ban as an excuse for racial intolerance.

President Joseph Fielding Smith taught:
No church or other organization is more insistent than THE CHURCH of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-day Saints, that the Negroes should receive all the rights and privileges that can possibly be given to any other in the true sense of equality as declared in the Declaration of Independence. They should be equal to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." They should be equal in the matter of education. They should not be barred from obtaining knowledge and becoming proficient in any field of science, art or mechanical occupation. They should be free to choose any kind of employment, to go into business in any field they may choose and to make their lives as happy as it is possible without interference from white men, labor unions or from any other source. In their defense of these privileges the members of the Church will stand. (Answers to Gospel Questions, Vol.2, p.185)
It should be noted that President Smith's comments were made in the 1950's (decades before the priesthood ban was lifted) and are quite meaningful when considered in historical context. (Much of this information came from John Walsh)
See also here for more information.

Updated statement from the Church on Race and the Priesthood (2013)

9. There has been compelling documentary evidence found that Joseph Smith gave women priesthood power in the temple "endowment" ritual in which women are anointed to become queens and priestesses.There exists a statement by Smith Two weeks before he organized the Female Relief Society of Nauvoo, Ill., in 1842, where he told the women that "the Society should move according to the ancient Priesthood" and he was "going to make this Society a kingdom of priests as in Enoch's day - as in Paul's day." Much later, in printing the official minutes of Smith's remarks, the official "History of the Church" omitted Smith's first use of the word "Society" and changed the second "Society" to "Church." How do you explain the contradiction between Smith's statement granting priesthood power to women and the present day situation of refusing women the priesthood?

A. Joseph Smith was refering to the Church when he said "Society". Later the word "Society" was changed to "Church" to clarify the meaning of the statement so there would be no confusion as to what organization he was talking about. Joseph Smith had, on other occasions, used the word "Society" when talking about the Church in general(D&C 134:9-10, History of the Church Vol. IV) If he was talking about the Relief Society specifically he would have said he was "going to make this Society a kingdom of priestesses"(instead of priests).
Concerning the temple endownment, the Encyclopedia of Mormonism states: "In the temples of the Lord, sacred priesthood ordinances (e.g., washings, anointings, clothings) are administered to men by men and to women by women who have received the endowments of the priesthood in the temple and have been given that specific priesthood responsibility. Women thus may act in priesthood power when called, set apart, and authorized by those who hold the keys; however, women officiators are not ordained to the priesthood or to an office in the priesthood to do this work."

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