A form of priesthood Joseph Smith believed was conferred by the voice of God upon a recipient (see Genesis 7:18). It does not descend by birth but by the will of God. It holds the responsibility for administering spiritual blessings. First promised to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery by John the Baptist, it was conferred by the voice of God for the first time at a conference in June 1831. Despite the evidence, the LDS church believes it was restored by Peter, James, and John sometime between May 16–28, 1829. The LDS church claims to be able to transfer this authority by the laying on of hands and, therefore, claims to have spread it throughout their adult male population. Until 1978, LDS Mormons refused to confer this priesthood on males of black African descent, but they changed their policy at that time and now ordain “all worthy males.”1 At a conference on June 3, 1831, a revelation to Joseph directed that twenty-three attendees were to be ordained to this heavenly priesthood. At the time of the conference, it was called “high priesthood” but later would be called Melchizedek Priesthood.2
Joseph Smith said, “All priesthood is Melchizedek, but there are different portions or degrees of it. That portion which brought Moses to speak with God face to face was taken away, but that which brought the ministry of angels remained. All the prophets had the Melchizedek priesthood and were ordained by God himself” (TPJS, 180–181).3 When viewed not as a name but as a title, Melchizedek is a compound of two words: Malki (king) and Zadok (righteous) which means and is a reference to the “King of Righteousness,” who is Jesus Christ, who possesses all Priesthood. Melchizedek priesthood or the priesthood of the King of Righteousness, viewed in this light, is the authentic Holy Order after the Order of the Son of God. Melchizedek priesthood is the priesthood of Jesus Christ. It is an association with the Son of God.4 This complete Melchizedek Priesthood comprehends the Aaronic, or Levitical priesthood and is the grand head, and holds the highest authority which pertains to the Priesthood, the keys of the Kingdom of God in all ages of the world to the latest posterity on the earth, and is the channel through which all knowledge, doctrine, the plan of salvation, and every important truth is revealed from Heaven (T&C 140:2). The Melchizedek priesthood is given for blessing and giving life. If someone claims to hold Melchizedek priesthood, but he uses it to judge, condemn, control, compel, and assert authority over the souls of men, then it is a sign he holds no such authority. The office, the authority, and the keys of the Melchizedek priesthood are given by God to man to bless, to enlighten, and to raise one up by bringing light and truth, which is the glory of God or intelligence.5See also MELCHIZEDEK; HOLY ORDER.
1 A Man Without Doubt, 174.
2 “The Holy Order,” Oct. 29, 2017, 33, paper.
3 WJS, 59; T&C 140:2.
4 Preserving the Restoration, 180.
5 Preserving the Restoration, 183.