The High Priest
Stewardship and Authority
A Brief History of the High Priest
The High Priest in the Old Testament
The High Priest; a member of the High Priesthood also referred to as the Melchizedek Priesthood. This priesthood was after the Order of the Covenant that God made with Enoch and named after Melchizedek the Prince of Peace, King of Salem whom God had approved and ordained a high priest forever.
“Now Melchizedek was a man of faith, who wrought righteousness; and when a child he feared God, and stopped the mouths of lions, and quenched the violence of fire. And thus, having been approved of God, he was ordained an high priest after the order of the covenant which God made with Enoch, It being after the order of the son of God; which order came, not by man, nor the will of man; neither by father nor mother; neither by beginning of days nor end of years; but of God;”
The High Priesthood existed on earth, prior to Melchizedek.
“Three years previous to the death of ADAM, HE CALLED SETH, ENOS, CAINAN, MAHALALEEL, JARED, ENOCH, AND METHUSELAH, WHO WERE ALL HIGH PRIESTS, with the residue of his posterity, who were righteous, into the valley of Adam-ondi-ahman, and there bestowed upon them his last blessing. And the Lord appeared unto them, and they rose up and blessed Adam, and called him Michael, the Prince, the Archangel.” RLDS Doctrine and Covenants Sec 104:28a,b
The High Priest in the New Testament
A High Priest is given authority to administer in all the offices in the church when no higher authorities are present. They have a right to officiate in their own standing under the direction of the presidency. The President of the church is the President of the High Priesthood. Apostles, and Patriarchs are High Priests. The Bishop in the absence of a literal descendant of Aaron is also a High Priest. There are presiding High Priests who are chosen as Stake Presidents. There are also High Priests chosen to preside over large congregations in unorganized areas of the church. High Priests have the authority to sit on the various High Councils.
The Apostle Paul, speaking of his fellow apostles, in his letter to the Hebrews makes this statement;
“Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus;” Hebrews 3:1
Paul here clarifies that not only is Jesus an Apostle and High Priest but that the Apostles are also partakers of the heavenly calling of High priest.
“For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins;” Heb 5:1
“So also Christ glorified not himself to be made a high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, today have I begotten thee. As he saith also in another place, Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” Heb 5:5-6
The High Priest in the Book of Mormon
“And also trusting no one to be your teacher nor your minister, except he is a man of God, walking in his ways and keeping his commandments. Thus did Alma teach his people, that every man should love his neighbor as himself; that there should be no contention among them. And now Alma was their high priest, he being the founder of their church. And it came to pass that none received authority to preach or to teach, except it were by him from God.”
“And it came to pass that Alma was appointed to be the chief judge; he being also the high priest; his father having conferred the office upon him, and had given him the charge concerning all the affairs of the church. And now it came to pass that Alma did walk in the ways of the Lord, and he did keep his commandments, and he did judge righteous judgments; and there was continual peace through the land; Mosiah 13:63,64
“ And thus being called by his holy calling, and ordained unto the high priesthood of the holy order of God, to teach his commandments unto the children of men, that they also might enter into his rest, This high priesthood being after the order of his Son, which order was from the foundation of the world: Or in other words, being without beginning of days or end of years, being prepared from eternity to all eternity, according to his foreknowledge of all things. Now they were ordained after this manner: Being called with a holy calling, and ordained with a holy ordinance, and taking upon them the high priesthood of the holy order, which calling, and ordinance, and high priesthood, is without beginning or end; Thus they become high priests for ever, after the order of the Son, the only begotten of the Father, who is without beginning of days or end of years, who is full of grace, equity, and truth. And thus it is. Amen.”
The High Priest in the Restoration
We can look to the Restoration for a fuller understanding of the role of High Priest. The Doctrine and Covenants furnishes us with a better understanding of this important calling.
The restoration of the Melchisedec Priesthood through the visitation of Peter, James, and John gave the Prophet Joseph Smith, Jr., and Oliver Cowdery the authority and power to set all things in order. As church membership increased, the Lord revealed his pattern to Joseph. The organization of the priesthood into divisions and quorums gradually were understood and established. It is highly important that we understand that the structure and organization of the church could not all come about at once. ……
…..The principle reason for this is that when the church was organized on the 6th of April 1830, there were only a few persons involved. The church needed time to grow in numbers in order to provide qualified, capable men to fill the many offices and callings that God required in his church. For example, a committee to select the Twelve, was appointed in 1829, however the twelve were not finally selected and ordained until 1835, six years later. The Melchisedec Priesthood was restored prior to the organization of the church in 1830; however the first High Priest was not ordained until 1831. It is necessary to take into consideration the historical time element, if we are to gain a better understanding of God’s plan for his church.
Joseph was given the following in relation to the calling of High Priest:
“The high priest and elder are to administer in spiritual things, agreeably to the covenants and commandments of the church; andthey have a right to officiate in all these offices of the church when there are no higher authorities present.” D&C 104:7
“Every president of the high priesthood (or presiding elder), bishop, high councilor, and high priest, is to be ordained by the direction of a high council, or General Conference.” D&C 17:17
High Priests are chosen and ordained in the same manner as all priesthood. They must be called of God by revelation as Aaron was called by one having authority to call them. This authority to call varies from office to office, but all priesthood calls must be from the Lord through the calling authority.
“If an elder be chosen who may by experience be found qualified to preside, as soon as practicable thereafter he should be ordained an high priest by the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the one ordaining, and by direction of a high council, or General Conference, as required in the law.” D&C 120:2d
And thus, having been approved of God, he was ordained an high priest after the order of the covenant which God made with Enoch, It being after the order of the son of God; which order came, not by man, nor the will of man; neither by father nor mother; neither by beginning of days nor end of years; but of God; And it was delivered unto men by the calling of his own voice, according to his own will, unto as many as believed on his name. Genesis 14:27-29
So that the Saints will not be confused, it is necessary to clarify something that has been confusing to many. The president of the High Priesthood is chosen by the body from the quorum of those High Priests who have been called of God and ordained by one having authority. In fact of law all three presidents, the First President and the Two Assistant Presidents or Councilors, are chosen from the High Priest Quorum by the body.
“Of necessity, there are presidents, or presiding offices, growing out of, or appointed of, or from among those who are ordained to the several offices in these two priesthoods. Of the Melchisedec priesthood, three presiding high priests, chosen by the body, appointed and ordained to that office, and upheld by the confidence, faith, and prayer of the church, form a quorum of the Presidency of the church.” D&C 104:11a, b
The Presidency, the Twelve, the Patriarchs, and the Bishops are all High Priests and we have treated their authorities and responsibilities under their own headings. We will now confine ourselves to those functions of the High Priest that have not been addressed.
“High Priests, after the order of the Melchisedec priesthood, have a right to officiate in their own standing, under the direction of the Presidency, in administering spiritual things, and also in the office of an elder, priest (of the Levitical order), teacher, deacon, and member.” D&C Sec 104:5
High Priests are chosen and sustained as Stake Presidents by a Stake Conference. These Stake Presidents are under the direction of the President of the Church.
High Priests are called and chosen to preside in all large Branches of unorganized areas.
The High Priests of the High Priests Quorum have the same legislative function as other Quorums within the General Assembly setting.
There will be administrative functions derived from those presidencies held by the High Priest. The High Priest as a Stake President, administers the affairs of the whole stake. He is to administer the stake business according to the laws of God for the Stakes of Zion. On a stake level of administration, the Stake Bishop, the Patriarch and other High Priests come under his direction. The Stake President is under the direction of the President of the High Priesthood, the church President. On the general church level, for general church matters, the Bishop and Patriarch are under the direction of the Presiding Bishop and Presiding Patriarch.
One of the most important callings of a High Priest, is to be a judge in a high council setting. serving as a high councilor. There are four types of high councils other than the Traveling High Council, (the Twelve Apostles), these councils are: The Standing High Council for the General Church; the High Council for a Stake of Zion; a Council of Traveling High Priests (temporary council) for trying cases in unorganized areas; and a special High Council called by the Presiding Bishop when a President of the High Priesthood is tried for transgression. Two types of councils can be appealed to a higher court. These are the Stake Councils and the Council of Traveling High Priests (temporary council). Three of these councils cannot be appealed. These are the Standing High Council for the General Church, the Traveling High Council, (the Twelve Apostles), and the special High Council called by the Presiding Bishop when a President of the High Priesthood is tried for transgression.