Wednesday, April 6, 2016

"You are a Priest Forever"

“You are a Priest Forever”
By Sean Killackey
January 25th, 2016
[Updated: February 3rd, 2016]

“[H]e has been specifically called by God a high priest according to the manner of Melchizedek.” – Hebrews 5:10 NWT

“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is governed by the priesthood,” says Gospel Principles. To them it has always been in existence and is “always associated with God’s work.” The Mormon Priesthood is divided into two categories, the higher Melchizedek Priesthood[1] and the lower Aaronic Priesthood.[2] The latter of which is an appendage to the former. (Ibid, p. 73) It is safe to say that there is no more important a facet of that church than their priesthood. Therefore, the validity of their faith – not the subjective “burning in the bosom,” but their system of beliefs and practices – is contingent on the authenticity of their priesthood.
According to their teachings, the priesthood, while eternal, was not always upon the earth. the lack of faith of Israel in the time of Moses, led to the removal of the Melchizedek Priesthood (for the most part) in Old Testament times; the Aaronic priesthood alone continued. Similarly, following the apostasy of the early church, the “priesthood authority was taken from the earth,” To be restored in the time of Joseph Smith. Let us examine the activities and functions of their priesthood and compare it to what is known biblically of the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods to see if Mormonism is correct. We will start our examination by discussing the Aaronic Priesthood.
Supposedly, “[o]n May 15, 1829, John the Baptist appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery as a resurrected messenger from God and conferred the ancient “Priesthood of Aaron” upon them.” (Encyclopedia of Mormonism) In Doctrine and Covenants 13:1, “John” says, “[the Priesthood of Aaron] holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins.” It, “John” continues, “shall never be taken again from the earth.” Let us scrutinize this claim by keeping in mind two questions. First, was John able to confer this priesthood on another? Second, does the description of the “Priesthood of Aaron” in Doctrine and Covenants match with that of the Bible?
The Encyclopedia of Mormonism correctly notes that John the Baptists was “a descendant of Aaron through both parents and thus a Levite.” His Father, Zechariah, was a righteous priest in those days. (Luke 1:5,6) Therefore, they reckon that John was also a priest, which seems logical, since Aaron passed his office to one of his descendants, and the other priests did so as well.
However, not all of his descendants officiated as priests. The age to begin serving as a priest, while not stated explicitly, was around 25.[3] Five years after this age, we find John preaching baptism in symbol of repentance, which he did for a considerable time afterward until his death, instead of officiating as a priest. John was observing his role as a Nazarite and the promised “Elijah,” the one sent ahead of the Messiah. So, we see that just because his father was a priest, it did not follow that he was – though he certain was eligible to serve as one.
Further, even if he was not a priest, he could not have given the priesthood to another. Perhaps, instead of passing on the priesthood from his own authority or possession, which it is evident he lacked, he passed it on from God, the One who gave it to Aaron through his angel to begin with? That is not a viable solution, for it is still clear, as evidenced by its name, only descendants of Aaron could obtain to that priesthood (only one of which at a time served as High Priest). Certainly, not all Mormons who profess to be of that priesthood are descendants of Aaron.[4]
What of the duties of the so-called (modern) Aaronic Priesthood? “John the Baptist” says that the Aaronic priests minister to angels and preach baptism for the remission of sins, but Jehovah never gave such duties to the actual Aaronic priests. Angels are not ministered to, but are “sent out to minister to those who are going to inherit salvation.” (Hebrews 1:14) There was no baptism in Old Testament times among God’s people, the Molten Sea argument notwithstanding.[5] Priests had various jobs, including teaching the people, judging them, ritually cleansing others and offering incense. They also offered up sacrifices for the people’s sins, leaving no need for them to teach or preform baptism for the people’s sins. This would be a good reason as to why Jehovah never mentioned baptism for that purpose to Moses. Such baptism was preached and practiced (only by John apart from any priestly duties) to prepare the people for the then immediate appearance of the Messiah.
Most damning, however, is the fact that the Aaronic Priesthood has no purpose after the death of Christ, and that purpose which it used to have is not being performed by the Mormons who claim that office. Paul writes that, “[Jesus, i]f he were on earth, . . . would not be a priest, since there are already men who offer the gift according to the law.” The actual sons of Aaron still offered up sacrifices in those days and preformed their legal duties. This, though, was “a typical representation [or antitype] and a shadow of the heavenly things” and would end (Hebrews 8:4,5)
Perhaps, the older duties no longer needed to be performed, but the priesthood itself could still continue in altered form as it does in Mormonism. The natural response to this is: why keep the priesthood if its functions are so radically changed? Would it really be the same priesthood? Further, it is explicitly taught that when Christ came, he did away with the Law covenant, and that its priesthood, which was “weak and ineffective,” was thus “set aside” and replaced by a new one. (Hebrews 7:18) In addition to being weak, the Aaronic Priesthood (and the Mosaic Law which prescribed it) had to be replaced, since the High Priest “in the manner of Melchizedek” (not of Aaron) was not of the tribe of Levi, the only tribe from whence priests could come from.[6]
“For since the priesthood is being changed,”[7] wrote Paul, “it becomes necessary to change the Law as well.” (Hebrews 7:12) If, though, the priesthood remains forever, then it is not changed, so the necessity that Paul sees to change the Law would be nonexistent. Yet, Mormons argue that the Aaronic Priesthood remains forever, since the covenant made to Aaron and his sons was for ‘forever.’ (Deuteronomy 18:5) This is poor justification, since the words “forever” or “always” in Hebrew is not always meant absolutely. For example, a slave who wished to could choose to be his master’s slave “forever.” (Exodus 21:6) If, then, “forever” could be spoken of things with an end, the Aaronic Priesthood could end despite its seemingly everlasting nature.[8] We note, then that these two priesthoods could not continue on forever side by side; the former was abandoned in favor of the superior ne. With this in in mind, let us move on to discuss the Melchizedek Priesthood.[9]
Mormons assert that the Melchizedek priesthood existed before Jesus’ day. To them, “[b]efore [Melchizedek’s] day it was called the Holy Priesthood, after the Order of the Son of God.” (Doctrine and Covenants 107:2; italics in original). This seems to be scriptural, for Paul says of Melchizedek, “In being fatherless, motherless, without genealogy, having neither a beginning of days nor an end of life, but being made like the Son of God, he remains a priest for all time.” But, what if there is a difference between the priesthood of Melchizedek and the priesthood after the manner of Melchizedek? Then, this supposed continuity would collapse, and the Mormon priesthood with it.
There is a difference between the two. Firstly, Paul simply uses Melchizedek as an antitype. In the scriptures antitypes of Christ or the new covenant bear semblance to what they represent, but are lesser. For example, Jesus is the Prophet like Moses, yet Jesus is worthy of more honor and has more authority that Moses. (Deuteronomy 18:15; Hebrews 3:1-6) Or, take Solomon or David; the pattern still holds, Jesus is like them, only greater. (Luke 11:31) So, the fact that Paul speaks of Melchizedek as being without ancestors or death is merely figurative. The absence of a genealogy and a recorded statement for Melchizedek provided a perfect antitype for Christ, who drew his priesthood no fleshly decent, but from an eternal life. Only Christ, not Melchizedek, who theoretically should still be a priest, can save us completely; therefore, we recognize that the priesthood of Melchizedek is inferior to that of Christ’s and is thus not a part of it. Also, unlike Melchizedek, Jesus does not – and, in fact, cannot – officiate as a priest on earth, so how could Mormon Melchizedek priests be priests while on earth? – Hebrews 8:4
In the end, Mormons do not officiate either priesthood properly, priesthoods they have not proper claim to. The issue comes to this, then: Mormons are part of a church officiated by frauds, pious frauds (in large part) no doubt, yet frauds nonetheless. The question that this produces is: if Israel was not spared even though they kept the (then newly defunct) Law and kept the actual Aaronic priesthood, how could can Mormons be spared?

[1] Jehovah’s Witnesses do not consider there to be such a priesthood. Rather, only Jesus holds that office. A priesthood implies more than one individual holder.

[2] Jehovah’s Witnesses call this the Levitical Priesthood. This term, however, in Mormon thought, refers to the Levites who assisted the actual priests. Therefore, when I refer to the High priest and those who officiated at the altar (as distinct from those Levites who did not descend from Aaron) I will use the term common to Mormons, “Aaronic Priesthood.”
[3] Levites began their service at this age, so it is reasonable to conclude that the same is true of the priests. Further, priests did not have an age of retirement, which the Levites did possess. – Numbers 8:25,26

[4] They are ineligible for this office, since it “depends on fleshly descent” and a now defunct “legal requirement.” Too, it itself is also a defunct facet of that Law. (Hebrews 7:16) You cannot keep the priesthood apart from its legal requirements, because the two are inexorably linked. Additionally, Numbers 3:10 states that any “stranger,” that is, anyone not of Aaron’s family, who came near the tent of meeting was to be executed, thus the importance of the legal requirement of fleshly descent is shown clearly.

[5] Mormons sometimes claim that the molten sea was made for baptism 2 Chronicles 4:6 does say that, “the Sea was for the priest for washing,” but it says nothing about them baptizing themselves or others. Rather, the connection was made to physical and ceremonial cleaning, for in that verse, “the things used for the burnt offering” were to be rinsed just as the priest were to wash.

[6] If the Aaronic Priesthood could have remained after Jesus assumed (not having previously) the office of High Priest (in heaven), the weight of the necessity that Paul says is implicit in Psalm 110:4 is reduced greatly. If, after all, you can change the priesthood, why did Jesus’ become high priest from a different tribe force the removal of the Mosaic Law? – Hebrews 7:12-14

[7] Changed, not in the sense of being altered, but in the sense of being replaced. Similarly, the Mosaic Law is replaced by the law of faith. – Romans 3:27

[8] “Forever” thus denoting something that would otherwise last forever, or something that lasts for a great length of time, but which will end.

[9] While the Bible does not show there to be a priesthood after the order of Melchizedek (rather, only one priest after the order of Melchizedek), we will talk as if such a priesthood is prescribed therein.

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