We have been taught to respect authority, and we have learned over time that some authority deserves our respect. Certainly within our world there are people who hold positions “in authority” over us, such as a boss, a traffic policeman, or a government official. In centuries past, common people used to think that such officials were in authority over them due to a divine right or mandate. Divine authority was ascribed to the kings in Europe many years ago; the people felt that God had made a particular person king (or perhaps more accurately, that if a particular person was king, God must have willed it), and that therefore the actions of the king were sanctioned and blessed.
Nowadays, however, we do not ascribe divine sanction of authority to someone who wins an election, or takes a job as a policeman. The practice of ascribing divine authority has changed.
Some LDS leaders have suggested that the authority they hold is similar to the authority that a policeman holds. They suggest that you wouldn’t accept a speeding ticket from a policeman who didn’t have a badge and wasn’t an actual policeman, and therefore, you shouldn’t accept spiritual authority unless it is similarly verified.
The LDS call this authority the “Priesthood.” LDS Priesthood is different from “priesthood” as it is understood in other religions. The LDS believe that Priesthood is “the power of God”, and it is ordained upon most active LDS males of a certain age who pass behavioral tests. The LDS believe that the ordination process, wherein adult males who possess the Priesthood place their hands upon the head of the man who is receiving it, literally provides divine sanction for the ordained to begin reception and use of this power. It has the image of suggesting a “transfer” of power, and those ordained keep a history of who ordained them, and who ordained them, etc., noting each generation back, until finally reaching Joseph Smith and God. In this manner, the LDS feel that the power is “authority” and the unbroken chain of ordinations is “authorization.” This power then resides in the ordained, but in order to be allowed to use this power, the ordained must be granted a “key” from a higher authority. All specific actions regarding the use of this power by the LDS are regulated by the issuance and use of keys.
Unlike other Christian churches where the “priesthood” is understood in relation to the title and office of a priest, in Mormonism “Priesthood” is held almost universally among the male laity. Mormons consider this power to be “the eternal power and authority of Deity by which all things exist”. Once received through an authoritative source and via a sanctioned process, this power allows an individual to not only act in the name of God, but to act with the same power which God possesses, provided he is given the key (permission) necessary to perform a particular action.
As Reform Mormons, we believe that the power to act in the name of God resides within each of us already – from the moment we entered this existence. Every one of us has within ourselves a part of that divine power – every single person. We believe this is true because we believe there is a part of us that is eternal – and this eternal aspect is divine. Knowledge and understanding of this aspect of ourselves, therefore, is critical to our own individual progression, for our destiny lies in this divine part of ourselves. The inherent power in this divine part of ourselves is similar to the power that is invoked when you make the statement: “I believe in God.” Many believe it is the same creative force by which God performs his actions. You may already be familiar with this power; it is a creative force. God did not single out some people for this power and deny it to others.
As Reform Mormons, we view this power as the Priesthood. The power of the priesthood, the power of God, lies within you right now.
You do not have to receive it from anyone – you have it already, you simply may not realize it. You have all of the “keys” spoken of by the Mormon prophets – you do not have to receive them from anyone – you have possessed them your entire life – they reside within you right now.
The authority to act in the name of God comes from God and not from people. You do not need to receive anything from other people in order to commune with God and act in the name of God – you need only to recognize the power you already have.
If you realize this, welcome to the Priesthood.
Since the LDS believe that the power to act in the name of God can only be given to you by “an authority” and via sanctioned means, they attempt to invalidate the power of others, believing that by so doing, they “validate” their own as “authoritative.” They feel that your possession of it somehow diminishes their possession of it. Of course, this is not true; this is a great mistake on their part. If you are a man, the LDS will tell you that there are many things you must do before you can actually have this power. If you are a woman they will tell you that you can never have this power. If you are young, they may say that you must wait until you are older, and until after you have performed certain requirements – that God does not hand this power out until requirements are met. If you are a non-Mormon, they may tell you that you cannot have this power until you convert to Mormonism and perform certain ceremonies. If you have dark skin, prior to 1977 they would have told you that you cannot have this power because God didn’t want people of your skin color to have it. If you are gay, they will tell you that because you do not keep their sexual code you are not worthy enough to have it. If you have been excommunicated, they will tell you that you cannot have it because God himself has withdrawn it from you.
Reform Mormons do not fear these claims. Fears that other people can somehow regulate this power within you vanish once you truly understand it. No person can ever give it to you except yourself, and no person can ever take it away from you. You will always have this power – whether or not you ever recognize it or use it – because God does not discriminate in the manner that men discriminate. The power of God is not within the hands of a select few who decide who shall receive it and who shall not. It resides in the hands of everyone – it always has, and it always will.
Our connection to this power is one of our few but exciting and powerful connections to eternity. Reform Mormons view this power as a divine birthright, and the act of recognizing its universality a sign of individual progression and freedom from the control of men. It will manifest itself in your life as a creative power. As you become familiar with it, you will realize its connection to things beyond temporal existence. It is most successfully implemented in conjunction with inspiration (revelation) and its results often defy adequate physical description (how does one describe the moving capabilities of a great work of art, or the source of genius behind a scientific discovery?) Leaning how to use this creative power is one of the great joys of life. It is one of the things “we have got to learn to do.”
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