Stewardship and Authority
A brief History of the Elder
The term Elder, is first mentioned in the Doctrine and Covenants Section Nineteen. This revelation was given April 6, 1830, at Fayette, New York, the day the church was organized.
“Wherefore, it behooveth me, that he, (Joseph Smith), should be ordained by you, Oliver Cowdery, mine apostle; this being an ordinance unto you, that you are an elder under his hand, he being the first unto you, that you might be an elder unto this church of Christ, bearing my name; D&C 19:3b
It was not until March 28, 1835, that the elders were organized into quorums. On that date the Prophet Joseph received the following by revelation:
“The office of an Elder comes under the priesthood of Melchisedec. The Melchisedec priesthood holds the right of presidency, and has power and authority over all the offices in the church, in all ages of the world, to administer in spiritual things.” D&C 104:3a-b
“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 an elder.”
D&C 104: 31 b
“Again, the duty of the president over the office of elders is to preside over ninety-six elders, and to sit in council with them, and to teach them according to the covenants. This presidency is a distinct one from that of the seventy, and is designed for those who do not travel into all the world.” D&C 104: 41a, b
There are two usages of the term Elder throughout the scriptures. One of these usages is very familiar to those of the Restoration, that of the office of Elder within the Melchisedec Priesthood. The other usage has come into disuse mostly during the administration of the Reorganized Church. That usage was applied to all Melchisedec priesthood members from the President, Apostles, Seventies, Patriarchs, Bishops, and to the Elders.
“The word elders as used in the law signifies those holding the Melchisedec priesthood only; all classes and orders of this priesthood are characterized by the word elder.” D&C 125:8
“An apostle is an elder, and it is his calling to baptize, and to ordain other elders, priests, teachers, and deacons, and to administer bread and wine–the emblems of the flesh and blood of Christ”
It is a scriptural requirement that one chosen as an Apostle, must be a High Priest and approved by a High Council or Conference before he can be ordained. The First Presidency is not a High Council without twelve high councilors who are set in place to form the High Council. This being the case, it is not only appropriate to refer to an Apostle as Elder, but also to make reference to High Priests, as Elders. Administrative policy and practice in the past has erroneously placed members of the quorum of seventy into the Elders quorum. It would be as logical to return the president of the high priesthood or an apostle to the Elders quorum as to return a seventy to this quorum. The law as we have found, does not allow shifting of callings outside the prescribed process of law which is given for each quorum.
For example: The body selects the president of the high priesthood and through legislation, (a vote of the body), the body can replace the president. Judiciously a special court headed by the presiding bishop and twelve high priests can try a president for transgression. The twelve choose other members of the twelve. They can only be removed by transgression and that by a finding of the standing high council. A member of the twelve can request non functioning status for age or health reasons but can only be released without his request by total incapacitation or his transgression as established by a high council. A seventy is chosen by the presidents of seventy and their brother seventies, and can only be released, by their quorum, for the same reasons as an apostle. All general authorities of the church at one time or another have been elders.
The office that we want to discuss here is the specific office of Elder, within the Melchisedec Priesthood.
“An apostle is an elder, and it is his calling to baptize, and to ordain other elders, priests, teachers, and deacons, and to administer bread and wine–the emblems of the flesh and blood of Christ–and to confirm those who are baptized into the church, by the laying on of hands for the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, according to the Scriptures; and to teach, expound, exhort, baptize, and watch over the church; and to confirm the church by the laying on of the hands, and the giving of the Holy Ghost, and to take the lead of all meetings. The elders are to conduct the meetings as they are led by the Holy Ghost, according to the commandments and revelations of God.” D&C 17:8b, 9
The above revelation indicates there are to be other elders than these who are apostles, but an Apostle is an Elder.
The priesthood functions of an elder are many as shown in the following instructions from the Lord:
To Work As a Missionary
The elder is to travel as far and wide as his circumstances will permit, and those who cannot travel are to watch over the church.
“And again I say unto you, I give unto you a commandment, that every man, both elder, priest, teacher, and also member, go to with his might, with the labor of his hands, to prepare and accomplish the things which I have commanded. And let your preaching be the warning voice, every man to his neighbor, in mildness and in meekness. And go ye out from among the wicked. Save yourselves. Be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord. Even so. Amen” D&C 38:9c, d, e
And again, verily I say unto you, Let Jared Carter be ordained a priest, and also George James be ordained a priest. Let the residue of the elders watch over the churches, and declare the word in the regions among them. And let them labor with their own hands, that there be no idolatry nor wickedness practiced. And remember in all things, the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted, for he that doeth not these things, the same is not my disciple. D&C 52:9a-c
Elders are to Assist the Bishop
“…and the elders, or high priests who are appointed to assist the bishop as counselors, in all things are to have their families supported out of the property which is consecrated to the bishop, for the good of the poor, and for other purposes, as before mentioned,…” D&C 42: 19a, b
To Teach the Gospel
“And again, the elders, priests, and teachers of this church shall teach the principles of my gospel which are in the Bible and the Book of Mormon, in which is the fullness of the gospel; and they shall observe the covenants and church articles to do them, and these shall be their teachings, as they shall be directed by the Spirit; and the Spirit shall be given unto you by the prayer of faith, and if ye receive not the Spirit ye shall not teach.” D&C 42:5a, b.
To Administer to the Sick
“Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.”
Elders to Bless Little Children
“Every member of the church of Christ having children, is to bring them unto the elders before the church, who are to lay their hands upon them in the name of Jesus Christ, and bless them in his name.” D&C 17:19
The Elders in quorum in General Assembly vote on the issues brought before the church.
“Every elder, priest, teacher, or deacon, is to be ordained according to the gifts and callings of God unto him; and he is to be ordained by the power of the Holy Ghost which is in the one who ordains him………. The several elders composing this church of Christ are to meet in conference once in three months, or from time to time, as said conferences shall direct or appoint; and said conferences are to do whatever church business is necessary to be done at the time. The elders are to receive their licenses from other elders, by vote of the church to which they belong, or from the conferences.” D&C 17:12a, b, 13, 14
Elders are often called upon to preside in congregations in unorganized areas. This calling is to be a shepherd and an administrator to the flock. He will often work under the organizing supervision of the Apostle or Seventy assigned to his area.
An elder has a right to officiate in his stead when the high priest is not present.
To Bring Wrongdoers Before the Church (Elders Court)
“But he or she shall be condemned by the mouth of two witnesses, and the elders shall lay the case before the church, and the church shall lift up their hands against him or her, that they may be dealt with according to the law of God. And if it can be, it is necessary that the bishop is present also. And thus ye shall do in all cases which shall come before you.” D&C 42:22b-e
Stewardship and Authority
A brief History of the Priesthood of Aaron
Appendage to the Melchisedec priesthood
“Therefore, he took Moses out of their midst and the holy priesthood also; and the lesser priesthood continued, which priesthood holdeth the key of the ministering of angels and the preparatory gospel, which gospel is the gospel of repentance and of baptism, and the remission of sins, and the law of carnal commandments, which the Lord, in his wrath, caused to continue with the house of Aaron, among the children of Israel until John, whom God raised up, being filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother’s womb:”
“Why it is called the lesser priesthood is, because it is an appendage to the greater, or the Melchisedec priesthood, and has power in administering outward ordinances. The bishopric is the presidency of this priesthood, and holds the keys or authority of the same.” D&C 104:8b-c
Priesthood after the order of Aaron Restored
John, who was called the Baptist, was recognized of the Lord when Jesus went to him for baptism. When the chief priests and elders questioned Jesus in the temple, Jesus indicated that the baptism of John was of heaven. See Matt. 21:23
John was of a priestly family. His father Zacharias served in the temple at Jerusalem. See Luke 1:5-8
This John, appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery and restored the priesthood of Aaron on earth for the first time since the great apostasy.
“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; which John I have sent unto you, my servants, Joseph Smith, Jr., and Oliver Cowdery, to ordain you unto this first priesthood which you have received, that you might be called and ordained even as Aaron;” D&C 26:2c-d
The Bishops in Zion, in her Stakes, and in unorganized areas, are presidents over the priesthood of Aaron.
Of organized areas, the law has been given:
“Also the duty of the president over the priesthood of Aaron, is to preside over forty-eight priests, and sit in council with them, to teach them the duties of their office, as is given in the covenants. This president is to be a bishop; for this is one of the duties of this priesthood.” D&C 104:40a
The Bishops are the presidents over all the priesthood of Aaron, however each quorum also has its own president. When the Church and Kingdom are functioning as God provided, all priesthood will receive those teachings necessary to perform their stewardships in a manner pleasing to the Lord.
“And again, verily I say unto you, The duty of a president over the office of a deacon, is to preside over twelve deacons, to sit in council with them, and to teach them their duty–edifying one another, as it is given according to the covenants. And also the duty of the president over the office of the teachers, is to preside over twenty–four of the teachers, and to sit in council with them-teaching them the duties of their office, as given in the covenants;” D&C 104:38-39
The New testament church grew as members of the priesthood under the authority of Jesus Christ bore their testimonies. Many priesthood members left the established church that had rejected the teachings of Jesus and joined the New Testament or New Covenant Church.
“And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.” Acts 6:7