5. Authority in the Ministry

ARTICLE 5-We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands, by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.

Men Called of God

Scriptural Examples-It is not less agreeable to the dictates of human reason than conformable to the plan of perfect organization that characterizes the Church of Jesus Christ, that all who minister in the ordinances of the Gospel should be called and commissioned for their sacred duties by divine authority. The scriptures sustain this view most thoroughly; they present to us an array of men whose divine callings are attested, and whose mighty works declare a power greater than that of unaided human capacity. On the other hand, not an instance is set down in Holy Writ of anyone taking to himself the authority to officiate in sacred ordinances and being acknowledged of the Lord in such administration.

A painting depicting Noah prophesying to the people.

Consider the case of Noah who “found grace in the eyes of the Lord” in the midst of a wicked world. Unto him the Lord spake, announcing His displeasure with the wicked inhabitants of earth and the divine intention concerning the deluge, and instructed him in the manner of building and stocking the ark. That Noah declared the word of God unto his perverse contemporaries is shown in Peter’s declaration of Christ’s mission in the spirit world-that the Savior preached to those who had been disobedient during the period of God’s longsuffering in the days of Noah, and who in consequence had endured the privations of the prison house in the interval. None can question the divine source of Noah’s authority, nor the justice of the retributive punishment following the wilful rejection of his teachings, for his words were the words of God.

So also with Abraham, whom the Lord called and made covenant with for all generations of his posterity. Isaac was similarly distinguished; likewise Jacob, to whom, as he rested upon his pillow of stones in the desert, the Lord was manifest. Unto Moses came the voice of God amidst the fierceness of fire, calling and commissioning the man to go into Egypt and deliver therefrom the people whose cries had come up with such effect before the Lord. In this work Aaron was called to assist his brother; and later, Aaron and his sons were chosen by divine direction from the midst of the children of Israel to minister in the priest’s office. When Moses saw that his days were numbered he solicited the Lord to appoint a successor in his holy station; and by command, Joshua, the son of Nun, was named for specific service.

Samuel, who became a great prophet in Israel, commissioned to consecrate, command, and rebuke kings, to direct armies and to serve as the oracle of God unto the people, was chosen while yet a boy and called by the voice of the Lord. Such was the power that followed this call that all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established as the prophet of the Lord. The scriptures tell of many other men of might, who received their power from God, and whose histories portray the honor with which the Lord regards His authorized ministers. Think of the heavenly vision by which Isaiah was called and directed in the duties of his prophetic office; of Jeremiah, to whom the word of the Lord came in the days of Josiah; of the priest Ezekiel, who first received the divine message in the land of the Chaldeans and subsequently on other occasions; of Hosea, and all the rest of the prophets to Zechariah and Malachi.

The apostles of the Lord were called by His own voice in the days of His ministry; and the Savior’s authority is beyond question, vindicated as it is by the mighty works of the atonement, wrought through pain and the anguish of death, and by the declarations of the Father. Peter, and Andrew his brother, while casting their nets into the sea were called with the instruction: “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men”; and soon afterward, James and John, sons of Zebedee, were similarly called. So with all of the Twelve who ministered with the Master; and unto the eleven apostles who had remained faithful He appeared after His resurrection, giving them special commissions for the work of the kingdom. Christ specifically affirms that He had chosen His apostles, and that He had ordained them in their exalted stations.

"Called of God by Prophecy; By the Laying on of Hands by Those in authority; To Preach the Gospel; Administer in the Ordinances"; Left to right, top to bottom: A profile painting of Joseph Smith, a painting of Peter, James, and John giving Joseph Smith the Priesthood, a painting of Joseph Smith preaching the Gospel, and a painting of a man getting baptized.In the period immediately following that of Christ’s earthly mission, the ministers of the Gospel were all designated and set apart by unquestionable authority. Matthias was chosen, by lot but under invocation of the Lord’s direction, to fill the vacancy in the body of the Twelve occasioned by the death of Judas Iscariot. Saul of Tarsus, afterward Paul the apostle, who had been converted with marvelous signs and wondrous manifestations, had to be formally commissioned for the labor that the Lord desired him to perform; and we are told that the Holy Ghost spake to the prophets and teachers of the Church at Antioch, while they fasted before the Lord, saying: “Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.”

Ordination of Men to the Ministry, as sanctioned by scriptural precedent and established by direct revelation of God’s will, is to be effected through the gift of prophecy and by the imposition of hands by those who are in authority. By prophecy is meant the right to receive and the power to interpret manifestations of the divine will. That the laying on of hands is usual as a part of the ordinance is seen in several of the instances already cited; nevertheless the scriptures record numerous ordinations to the offices of the Priesthood without specific statement concerning the imposition of hands or any other details. Such instances do not warrant the conclusion that the laying on of hands was omitted; and in the light of modern revelation it is clear that the imposition of hands was a usual accompaniment of ordination as also of confirming blessings and of bestowing the Holy Ghost.

Thus, the Holy Priesthood descended from Adam to Noah under the hands of the fathers. Enos was ordained by the hand of Adam; and the same was true of Mahalaleel, Jared, Enoch, and Methuselah. Lamech was ordained under the hand of Seth; Noah received his authority under the hand of Methuselah. And so may the Holy Priesthood be traced, bestowed as the spirit of prophecy directed, by the hand of one upon another, till the time of Moses. Melchizedek, who conferred this authority upon Abraham, received his own through the direct lineage of his fathers from Noah. Esaias, a contemporary of Abraham, received his ordination under the hand of God. Through the hand of Esaias, the authority passed to Gad, thence by the same means to Jeremy, Elihu, Caleb, and Jethro the priest of Midian under whose hand Moses was ordained. Joshua the son of Nun was set apart as directed of God, through the imposition of hands by Moses.

In the days of the apostles circumstances rendered it expedient to appoint special officers in the Church, to care for the poor and attend to the distribution of supplies; these were selected with care and were set apart through prayer and laying on of hands. Timothy was similarly ordained, as witness the admonitions given him by Paul: “Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery,” and again, “Stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands.” The Lord has bound Himself by covenant to acknowledge the acts of His authorized servants. Unto whomsoever the elders of the Church give promise after acceptable baptism, the Holy Ghost will come. Whatever the Priesthood shall bind or loose on earth, in accordance with the Lord’s commands, is to be bound or loosed in heaven; the sick upon whom the elders lay their hands are to recover; and many other signs are to follow them that believe. So jealous is the Lord of the power to officiate in His name, that at the judgment all who have aided or persecuted His servants are to be rewarded or punished as if they had done those things unto Himself.

Unauthorized ministrations in priestly functions are not alone invalid, but also grievously sinful. In His dealings with mankind God recognizes and honors the Priesthood established by His direction, and countenances no unauthorized assumption of authority. A lesson is taught by the case of Korah and his associates, in their rebellion against the authority of the Priesthood in that they falsely professed the right to minister in the priest’s office. The Lord promptly visited them for their sins, causing the ground to cleave asunder and to swallow them up with all their belongings.

Consider also the affliction that fell upon Miriam, the sister of Moses, a prophetess among the people. She, with Aaron, railed against Moses, and they said: “Hath the Lord indeed spoken only by Moses? Hath he not spoken also by us? And the Lord heard it.” Jehovah came down in a cloud and stood in the door of the tabernacle, denouncing their presumption and vindicating the authority of His oracle, Moses. When the cloud passed from the tabernacle Miriam was seen to be leprous, white as snow; and according to the law she was shut out from the camp of Israel. However, through the earnest entreaties of Moses, the Lord healed the woman and she was subsequently permitted to return to the company.

Consider the fate of Uzza, the Israelite who met sudden death through the anger of God because he put forth his hand to steady the ark of the covenant. This he did in spite of the law that none but the priests might touch the sacred accompaniments of the ark; we read that not even the appointed bearers of the vessel were allowed to touch its more sacred parts, on pain of death.

Think also of Saul who had been called from the field to be made king of the nation. When the Philistines were marshalled against Israel in Michmash, Saul waited for Samuel, under whose hand he had received his kingly anointing and to whom he had looked in the days of his humility for guidance; he asked that the prophet come and offer sacrifices to the Lord in behalf of the people. But, growing impatient at Samuel’s delay, Saul prepared the burnt offering himself, forgetting that though he occupied the throne, wore the crown, and bore the scepter, these insignia of kingly power gave him no right to officiate even as a deacon in the Priesthood of God; and for this and other instances of his unrighteous presumption he was rejected of God and another was made king in his place.

A striking instance of divine jealousy, which is righteous zeal, concerning priestly functions, is shown in the experience of Uzziah, king of Judah. He was placed upon the throne when but sixteen years old; and, as long as he sought the Lord he was greatly prospered, so that his name became a terror unto his enemies. But he allowed pride to grow in his heart, and indulged the delusion that in his kingship he was supreme. He entered the Temple and essayed to burn incense on the altar. Shocked at his blasphemous action, Azariah, the chief priest of the Temple, and fourscore priests with him, forbade the king, saying: “It appertaineth not unto thee, Uzziah, to burn incense unto the Lord, but to the priests the sons of Aaron, that are consecrated to burn incense: go out of the sanctuary; for thou hast trespassed.” At this rebuke and condemnation from his subjects, though they were priests of the Lord, the king became angry; but immediately the scourge of leprosy fell upon him; the signs of the dread disease appeared in his forehead; and being now physically an unclean creature his presence tended the more to defile the holy place. So Azariah and his associate priests thrust the king out from the Temple; and he, a smitten thing, fled from the house of God never again to enter its sacred precincts. Concerning the rest of his punishment we read: “And Uzziah the king was a leper unto the day of his death, and dwelt in a several house, being a leper; for he was cut off from the house of the Lord.”

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5. Authority in the Ministry
Men who preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances are called by prophecy and are given power and authority from God.