The priesthood is the eternal power and authority of God.
Through the priesthood God created and governs the heavens
and the earth. Through this power He redeems and exalts
His children, bringing to pass “the immortality and eternal
life of man” (Moses 1:39).
Priesthood Authority Given to Men on Earth
God gives priesthood authority to worthy male members
of the Church so they can act in His name for the salvation of
His children. Priesthood holders can be authorized to preach
the gospel, administer the ordinances of salvation, and govern
the kingdom of God on the earth.
Male members of the Church may begin their priesthood
service when they reach the age of 12. They begin by holding
the Aaronic Priesthood, and they later may qualify to have
the Melchizedek Priesthood conferred on them. At different
stages in their lives and as they prepare themselves to receive
different responsibilities, they hold different offices in the
priesthood, such as deacon, teacher, or priest in the Aaronic
Priesthood and elder or high priest in the Melchizedek
Priesthood. (For specific information about the Aaronic and
Melchizedek Priesthoods, see pages 3–4 and 101–2.)
For a male member of the Church to hold the priesthood,
an authorized priesthood holder must confer it on him and
ordain him to an office in that priesthood (see Hebrews 5:4;
D&C 42:11; Articles of Faith 1:5).
Although the authority of the priesthood is bestowed
only on worthy male members of the Church, the blessings of
the priesthood are available to all—men, women, and children.
We all benefit from the influence of righteous priesthood
leadership, and we all have the privilege of receiving
the saving ordinances of the priesthood.
Priesthood and the Family
The most important exercise of the priesthood takes
place in the family. Each husband and father in the Mormon Church should strive to be worthy to hold the Melchizedek
Priesthood. With his wife as an equal partner, he presides in
righteousness and love, serving as the family’s spiritual
leader. He leads the family in regular prayer, scripture study,
and family home evening. He works with his wife to teach the
children and help them prepare to receive the ordinances of
salvation (see D&C 68:25–28). He gives priesthood blessings
for direction, healing, and comfort.
Many members do not have faithful Melchizedek
Priesthood holders in their homes. However, through the
service of home teachers and priesthood leaders, all members
of the Church can enjoy the blessings of priesthood power in
A priesthood quorum is an organized group of brethren
who hold the same priesthood office. The primary purposes
of quorums are to serve others, build unity and brotherhood,
and instruct one another in doctrines, principles, and duties.
Quorums exist at all levels of Church organization. The
President of the Church and his counselors form the Quorum of
the First Presidency. The Twelve Apostles also form a quorum.
Seventies, both General Authorities and Area Authorities, are
organized into quorums. Each stake president presides over a
quorum of high priests, made up of all the high priests in the
stake. Each ward or branch normally has quorums of elders,
priests, teachers, and deacons. High priests are also organized
in wards, serving in high priests groups.
From the time priesthood holders are ordained to the
office of teacher, they have the opportunity and responsibility
to serve as home teachers. In this way they work toward fulfilling
their duty to “watch over the church always, and be
with and strengthen them” (D&C 20:53).
Home teachers have a sacred duty to be the Church’s first
source of help to individuals and families. They visit their
assigned members at least monthly. In serving and visiting
their assigned members, they support parents in their responsibilities, teach the gospel to each family member, nurture
friendships, and help members prepare to receive temple
ordinances and live worthy of the blessings of the gospel.
Leaders in wards and branches ensure that home teachers
are assigned to each family or individual. They follow up
with home teachers to help meet each member’s spiritual
and temporal needs.
The exercise of priesthood authority in the Church is governed
by those who hold priesthood keys (see D&C 65:2;
124:123). Those who hold priesthood keys have the right to
preside over and direct the Church within a jurisdiction. For
example, a bishop holds priesthood keys that enable him to
preside in his ward. Therefore, when a child in that ward is
prepared to be baptized, the person baptizing the child must
receive authorization from the bishop.
Jesus Christ holds all the keys of the priesthood. He has
given His Apostles the keys that are necessary for governing
His Church. Only the senior Apostle, the President of the
Church, may use (or authorize another person to use) these
keys for governing the entire Church (see D&C 43:1–4; 81:2;
The President of the Church delegates priesthood keys
to other priesthood leaders so they can preside in their areas
of responsibility. Priesthood keys are bestowed on presidents
of temples, missions, stakes, and districts; bishops; branch
presidents; and quorum presidents. A person who serves in
one of these positions holds the keys only until he is released.
Counselors do not receive keys, but they do receive authority
and responsibility by calling and assignment.
Exercising the Priesthood Righteously
If you are a priesthood holder, remember that the priesthood
should be a part of you at all times and in all circumstances.
It is not like a cloak that you can put on and take off
at will. Any ordination to a priesthood office is a call to lifelong
service, with the promise that the Lord will qualify you
to do His work according to your faithfulness.
You must be worthy in order to receive and exercise
priesthood power. The words you speak and your everyday
behavior affect your ability to serve. Your behavior in public
must be above reproach. Your behavior in private is even
more important. Through the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Lord
declared that “the rights of the priesthood are inseparably
connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of
heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles
of righteousness” (D&C 121:36). He warned priesthood
“When we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our
pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion
or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any
degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw
themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is
withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that
man. Behold, ere he is aware, he is left unto himself” (D&C
You cannot maintain any power or influence in the
priesthood except “by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; by kindness,
and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul
without hypocrisy, and without guile.” If you are “moved
upon by the Holy Ghost” to reprove someone, show forth
afterward “an increase of love toward him whom thou hast
reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy; that he may
know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of
death” (D&C 121:41–43).
As you exercise the priesthood in righteousness and
love, you will find joy in serving as an instrument in the
Lord’s hands. He said:
“Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men,
and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy
thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong
in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood
shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven.
“The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and
thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth;
and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without
compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and
ever” (D&C 121:45–46).
Additional references: John 15:16; Acts 8:14–20; James 5:14–15; D&C 13;
20; 84; 107; Joseph Smith—History 1:68–73
See also Aaronic Priesthood; Church Administration; Melchizedek
Priesthood; Ordinances; Restoration of the Gospel