Question: Why was a priesthood restoration by the "laying on of hands" required?

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Question: Why was a priesthood restoration by the "laying on of hands" required?

Clearly, the conferral and proper transfer of authority is of key importance within the Old and New Testaments

It is claimed by some Christians that no restoration of priesthood authority was required. [1] Was the "laying on of hands" necessary in order to receive priesthood authority? Did the concept of priesthood authority and ordinations actually come from Sidney Rigdon?

Clearly, the conferral and proper transfer of authority is of key importance within the Old and New Testaments. One must accept one of two positions: either this authority continued, unbroken, through the Church of the Middle Ages down to the present day, or the authority was lost and a restoration was necessary. Priesthood authority from designated sources was a common theme in the Old and New Testaments, and ought to be continued into the modern Church.

Some do not believe that any 'divine authority' was deemed necessary by the apostles or early Christians to act in the name of God. This section briefly explores several Biblical instances in which authority is clearly given and clearly required to act in God's name.

Religious authority was not given to everyone in Old Testament times

In Old Testament times, the authority to act in a religious capacity did not belong to everyone. Even kings could not act as priests of the Lord without authority:

Samuel and Saul

8 ¶ And he tarried seven days, according to the set time that Samuel had appointed: but Samuel came not to Gilgal; and the people were scattered from him. 9 And Saul said, Bring hither a burnt offering to me, and peace offerings. And he offered the burnt offering. 10 And it came to pass, that as soon as he had made an end of offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel came; and Saul went out to meet him, that he might salute him. 11 ¶ And Samuel said, What hast thou done? And Saul said, Because I saw that the people were scattered from me, and that thou camest not within the days appointed, and that the Philistines gathered themselves together at Michmash; 12 Therefore said I, The Philistines will come down now upon me to Gilgal, and I have not made supplication unto the LORD: I forced myself therefore, and offered a burnt offering. 13 And Samuel said to Saul, Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of the LORD thy God, which he commanded thee: for now would the LORD have established thy kingdom upon Israel for ever. 14 But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the LORD hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the LORD hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the LORD commanded thee.(1 Samuel 13:11–14).

King Uzziah

18 And they withstood Uzziah the king, and said unto him, 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; neither shall it be for thine honour from the LORD God. 19 Then Uzziah was wroth, and had a censer in his hand to burn incense: and while he was wroth with the priests, the leprosy even rose up in his forehead before the priests in the house of the LORD, from beside the incense altar.(2 Chronicles 26:18–19).

The Bible teaches that priests were called by God through a prophet

Priests in the Old Testament were called by God through a prophet, and the New Testament letter to the Hebrews teaches that the same principle applies.

The letter to the Hebrews teaches that no one 'takes the honor' of acting for God without being called in the same way as Aaron was:

1 FOR every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins: 2 Who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity. 3 And by reason hereof he ought, as for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins. 4 And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.(Hebrews 5:1–4).

How was Aaron chosen? By direct revelation from God to a prophet:

And take thou unto thee Aaron thy brother, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel, that he may minister unto me in the priest's office, even Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, Aaron's sons.(Exodus 28:1).

Jesus gave authority to the Twelve apostles and others

Jesus clearly delegated authority to the Twelve apostles and to others in order to authorize them to act in His name:

And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease.(Matthew 10:1).

After these things the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come.(Luke 10:1).

Jesus clearly stated that he was giving authority to the apostles

Jesus made it clear that those whom he called had been given authority:

For the Son of man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch.(Mark 13:34).

And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.(Matthew 16:18).

A new apostle was chosen by the remaining members of the Twelve

Following the death of Judas, the apostles met to choose a new apostle: thus, the Twelve apostles were meant to continue as a group, and new members were to be called by revelation from God:

Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection. 23 And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. 24 And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen, 25 That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.(Acts 1:21–25).

Jesus taught that one does not choose himself to receive authority

Jesus taught that one does not choose himself to receive His authority. Jesus chooses those whom He will, and then has the recipient ordained (by Himself or by someone with delegated authority, as the apostles did):

Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.(John 15:16).

The Bible later illustrates, in conjunction with this principle, that using the name of Christ or having good intentions does not confer the authority which He gave. Witness what happens when someone without authority from Christ tries to do what the apostles do:

13 ¶ Then certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists, took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth. 14 And there were seven sons of one Sceva, a Jew, and chief of the priests, which did so. 15 And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye? 16 And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.(Acts 19:13–16)

Here the Jews use the name of Christ, use the same type of language as used by the apostles, and even use the name of an apostle (Paul). They are trying to do a good thing: to cast out an evil spirit. However, they have no authority from God: they lack the power given to the apostles by Jesus, and later given to others (such as Paul).


Notes

  1. Criticisms of the priesthood restoration are offered in the following works: Search for the Truth DVD (2007) Resources; Grant H. Palmer, An Insider's View of Mormon Origins (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2002) Chapter 7. ( Index of claims ); Jerald and Sandra Tanner, The Changing World of Mormonism (Moody Press, 1979), 442, 445-6.( Index of claims )