This past Sunday our lesson for the Young Men was on preparing for the Melchizedek Priesthood. The LDS Church’s Aaronic Priesthood Manual 2 had a nice summary of the ordinances that bearers of the Aaronic Priesthood and those who hold the Melchizedek Priesthood can perform. The lists go beyond ordinances but they make up the bulk of them.
Power of the Aaronic Priesthood
- 1. Prepare, administer, and pass the sacrament.
- 2. Baptize (priests only).
- 3. Receive the ministering of angels.
- 4. Go home teaching.
- 5. Look after the physical needs of the Saints.
- 6. Collect fast offerings.
- 7. Ordain other priests, teachers, and deacons (priests only).
- 8. Take charge of meetings in the absence of elders.
Power of the Melchizedek Priesthood
- 1. Confer the gift of the Holy Ghost.
- 2. Name and bless infants.
- 3. Administer to the sick.
- 4. Consecrate oil for anointing.
- 5. Dedicate graves.
- 6. Confer the Melchizedek and Aaronic priesthoods and ordain to offices in those priesthoods.
- 7. Look after the spiritual needs of the Saints.
- 8. Preside at meetings.
- 9. Enter the temple and receive all temple ordinances.
- 10. With the proper keys, officiate in all temple ordinances.
- 11. Have power and authority over all the offices in the Church (see D&C 107:8).
- 12. Do all things an Aaronic Priesthood bearer can do.
One thing that I’ve been thinking about recently is the something contained in this list, namely that those who are ordained Priests in the Aaronic Priesthood have the authority to baptize others (of course, under the direction of their Bishops – all things are done in the proper order with the proper oversight in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) but they cannot confirm those same people as members of the Church nor can they bestow upon them the gift of the Holy Ghost.
This is like the law that Jehovah gave to Moses and the law that He, as the Savior, gave during His mortal ministry. The Mosaic Law was preparatory for a higher law. It was a schoolmaster that led the House of Israel to Christ, although it had largely been corrupted by the time Jesus was born. The Mosaic Law was focused on outward ordinances (those ordinances were supposed to reflect inner change and covenant). These ordinances were done through the authority of the Aaronic (technically Levitical but those terms are basically interchangeable) Priesthood. But those ordinances were incomplete without the Melchizedek Priesthood. Christ was the great High Priest of the Melchizedek Priesthood: “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him; Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec” (Hebrews 5:8-10).
Just as the Mosaic Law was incomplete without Christ, so is baptism without confirmation and the reception of the Gift of the Holy Ghost. The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “You might as well baptize a bag of sand as a man, if not done in view of the remission of sins and getting of the Holy Ghost. Baptism by water is but half a baptism, and is good for nothing without the other half – that is, the baptism of the Holy Ghost” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, compiled by Joseph Fielding Smith, p.314). The Law of Moses was incomplete without the confirmation given by Christ.
Priests in the Aaronic Priesthood can baptize but they cannot confirm. They cannot complete the baptism of fire, which is really what purifies and sanctifies the baptized through the Atonement of Christ. The Aaronic Priesthood is preparatory. It is only half the Priesthood. What is amazing is that God allows young men starting at the age of 12 to bear that great responsibility. Aaronic Priesthood holders have primary responsibility for the physical aspects of the Church (of course all Melchizedek Priesthood holders still have the Aaronic Priesthood so they too are responsible for the physical needs of Church members and sometimes more so than the young men). Those who hold the Aaronic Priesthood are directly responsible for the Sacrament, which is one of the most sacred of all ordinances performed in the Church. The Sacrament was instituted by the Savior shortly before His death. Jesus blessed and broke and passed the bread and wine. He delegates this great responsibility to the young men of the Aaronic Priesthood today.
There is no greater responsibility for men in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints than the responsibility they hold as bearers of the Priesthood for even family responsibilities are Priesthood responsibilities. There are typically only six to seven years between when a young man receives the Aaronic Priesthood and when he receives the Melchizedek Priesthood (all of this is contingent upon worthiness and personal and family desires). The teenage years are crucial for spiritual development. They are the time for young men to prepare for the Melchizedek Priesthood.