Priesthood / Faith, What’s the Deal Here?

Don - October 6, 2005

This topic has been floating around in my head for a while and brings me to a number of questions. The priesthood is defined as the power to act in God’s name. That seems pretty powerful to me. In fact, to get more powerful than that, you must become a God yourself.  However, as I read the scriptures I find that faith seems to have that much power too.

All of the healings that Christ did was based on either a forgiveness of sins or "thy faith hath made thee whole". (I’m not sure whether those can really be disconnected). Even in James where we are told to call upon the Elders to bless the sick, it says the faith of the person is what will heal them, and if they are healed their sins will be forgiven them. It doesn’t say the Elder’s priesthood or authority does the healing. Woman hav given many blessings which healed the sick, and they did it without the Priesthood. Even Christ doesn’t claim it’s by His authority that He healed people.

We are told that if we have enough faith we can move mountains. Enoch’s mountain moving, and river course changes were by faith.  All things are possible by faith.

So if we can heal, move mountains and have miracles happen because of faith (even the effects of the atonement come to us by faith) then what’s the deal with the Priesthood being the power to act in God’s name?  Maybe faith doesn’t allow us to act in God’s name, but it allows us to perform the acts God would do if He were here to do them. I don’t see that there is a big deal in the difference.

I would agree that the Priesthood is necessary as the governmental structure of the church. It does keep things in order. Since God is a god of order then having the Priesthood to keep that order is certainly important.

Am I missing something here?

19 Comments »

  1. You dont perform ordinances by faith.

    Comment by Kurt — October 6, 2005 @ 2:06 pm

  2. I’ll disagree with Kurt…but I think it is just semantics. The historic necessity of the priesthood was to mediate covenants. Those without the priesthood performed non-covenant (what we now call) ordinances for the first century of the Restoration as directed by the Prophets. It is only in the 20th century that we see Priesthood overcoming things that were typically recognized as functioning by faith. So the term “ordinance” is dynamic. There are things that are equally efficacious whether administered by faith or by the priesthood.

    The big difference is the covenents that we make with God. Those have unequivically been administered by the priesthood:

    Baptism, the Lords Supper, Ordination, Temple ordinances.

    Comment by J. Stapley — October 6, 2005 @ 2:20 pm

  3. What Kurt said.

    I’d also say that faith is the necessary precursor to any priesthood act. Without faith the Priesthood is meaningless.

    That said, if we exercise faith in Christ, we believe Him and His words — i.e., that we are to act through the Priesthood. So, faith leads us to act on the Lord’s terms, through the Priesthood, not on our own terms.

    Comment by Steve Evans — October 6, 2005 @ 2:24 pm

  4. Steve, “I’d also say that faith is the necessary precursor to any priesthood act.Without faith the Priesthood is meaningless.”

    I’d say that faith SHOULD be the necessary precursor. I though about including this with the original post, but didn’t want to go too many directions.

    I’m not sure faith has to be connected to priesthood ordainances. If an unworthy, faithless priest blesses the sacrament does it make the ordainance invalid…no. I think the same thing is true for all priesthood ordainances.

    The ordainance is valid whether the priesthood holder has faith or not. The benefit of the ordainance is based on the faith of the receiver, not the giver.

    If that were not the case then a bunch of priesthood ordainances would have to be re-done.

    Comment by don — October 6, 2005 @ 4:22 pm

  5. Don, you’ve got to distinguish between ordinances and the power of the priesthood in a general sense. If we say “amen” to someone’s priesthood, thereby invalidating it, we don’t invalidate his ordinances — but nevertheless the “amen” is meaningful.

    Comment by Steve Evans — October 6, 2005 @ 5:03 pm

  6. My mentioning of Priesthood in the last post that led to this one was more along the lines of how much Priesthood is in the women of the church (i.e. in the temple, into the eternities, etc.)
    However, I echo J’s comments. I think we need the Priesthood if nothing else to delineate which church is the Lord’s.

    Comment by Bret — October 6, 2005 @ 6:34 pm

  7. Bret, I agree with you, we do need the priesthood, it does show us the true church by organization. It also provides the correct power to perform the ordainances of the church. But I think we ascribe the power to heal and perform other “miracles” too many times to the power of the priesthood, when in reality it really is the power of faith, not the priesthood at all.

    Comment by don — October 6, 2005 @ 7:48 pm

  8. I agree with you Don. One does not need the priesthood to heal, work miracles, or enjoy any of the gifts of the Spirit. That means those things are equally available to men or women in the church.

    The priesthood is required to perform ordinances. And ordinances can enhance one’s ability to work miracles (by giving thing like the Gift of the Holy Ghost for instance). But I think performing ordinances pales in comparison to what all can do with faith.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 7, 2005 @ 1:36 am

  9. Allow me to spew for a moment here.

    This has been a big puzzle for me, too. I remember reading one of Christ’s healing miracles in which the individual healed asks “how is it done?” and the answer is “because of your belief” and it absolutely stunned me with the question “Is faith a placebo?”/ “Is ‘Priesthood power’ a placebo?”

    I agree that the problem is partially semantic. Think of how we use and misuse the term “priesthood.” “Priesthood” is the Men of the church. “Priesthood” is the authority to act in God’s name. (So is Christianity, right?) “Priesthood” is the power of God (Well, not totally–it’s not even completely the power of investiture. There are HUGE qualifiers on it.) I think this is one of those cases where language really fails us, and where we should be much more careful how we use the language.

    Women didn’t heal without the priesthood. Clearly they did it with the power of God, and they were women endowed with that power and who had entered into the highest order of priesthood, temple marriage, with their husbands. They may have done it without the priesthood keys of presiding over the church, or without a specific, church-related priesthood office. But they had not only the authority (having been instructed by church leaders to administer in that way at that time) but also the clear aprobation of God, who honored their pronouncements with numerous and pronounced miraculous healings.

    Okay, spew over for a time. But I’ll get back to this.

    Comment by LisaB — October 7, 2005 @ 9:11 am

  10. J.Stapley,

    Could you give specific examples of what you are referring to? Also, what about in pre-Christian times, its pretty plain under the Law of Moses that ordinances were strictly administered via highly regulated means. I have to wonder of some of the ambiguity we see in Jesus’ actions is because of the overlap between the AP and MP, being somewhat in conflict at the time.

    Comment by Kurt — October 7, 2005 @ 10:33 am

  11. Lisa,

    When you say “Women didn’t heal without the priesthood”, I assuming you mean in specific cases. One of the points of this post is that it doesn’t take the priesthood to heal, it takes faith. Faith can heal without any involvement of the priesthood in any way.

    Comment by don — October 7, 2005 @ 1:11 pm

  12. I remember when I got home from my mission and I was trying to help get by inactive brother back to church. Being the overzealous RM that I was, I told him the story of a miraculous healing I saw after a preisthood blessing. I believed it was sure evidence that we had the true priesthood. My brother floored me completely when he asked about miraculous healings of people of others faith. So, if they didn’t have the preisthood was it really the blessing that healed the missionary? I didn’t have an answer, so I just kept eating my grilled stuff burrito.

    Comment by Brett — October 7, 2005 @ 5:11 pm

  13. Don–No I’m not only talking about the specific fact of women being sanctioned to perform priesthood healing blessings in the early history of the LDS church. I’m also pointing out that the priesthood is the power of God. So whether or not someone invokes authority granted by virtue of priesthood ordination, if healing occurs, priesthood (the power of God) is invloved.

    Comment by LisaB — October 7, 2005 @ 7:16 pm

  14. Lisa, you said “So whether or not someone invokes authority granted by virtue of priesthood ordination, if healing occurs, priesthood (the power of God) is invloved.” I respectfully disagree for two reasons. First the priesthood is not the power of God, it is the power granted to man to act in His name. Maybe I splitting hairs but I think there is a difference.

    Second, faith heals. There are just too many examples in the scriptures where faith is the healing force.

    That’s my whole point of this blog.

    Comment by don — October 7, 2005 @ 9:26 pm

  15. Don,

    I have often heard it taught in the church that “the priesthood” is indeed the power of God itself. For example, this comes from the Priesthood entry in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism.

    Priesthood embraces all forms of God’s power. It is the power by which the cosmos was ordered, universes and worlds were organized, and the elements in all their varied structures and relationships were put into place. Through the priesthood, God governs all things.

    I think this is the idea that LisaB is referring to.

    Comment by ed — October 8, 2005 @ 3:46 am

  16. Here’s another quote from the Gospel Principles manual.

    What Is the Priesthood?

    The priesthood is the power and authority of God. By his priesthood power the heavens and the earth were created. By this power the universe is kept in perfect order….Our Heavenly Father shares his priesthood power with worthy male members of the Church.

    Comment by ed — October 8, 2005 @ 3:51 am

  17. What’s the difference between “the power of God” and “faith”, except that men have one exclusively (so far)?

    Comment by Abby — October 9, 2005 @ 1:56 pm

  18. No mortal–male or female–”has” the power of God right now, exclusively or otherwise. Men and women have equal access to faith and receiving prieshood salvatory ordinances.

    Comment by LisaB — October 9, 2005 @ 3:33 pm

  19. In thinking over Jesus’ comments from the various Gospels on people’s faith healing them, I have to wonder if Jesus’ intent there was to make it clear to the people that it wasnt just a miracle on his part, but was also participatory for the person who was healed. In other words, Jesus couldnt/wouldnt have healed them if it werent for their faith, so its not just all about him, its also about them too. Their faith, convictions, good works and so on, put them into a place where their belief in God was firm and steadfast, and so Jesus performed a healing miracle for a believer.

    This wouldnt mean the Priesthood wasnt necessary, it would mean:

    Jesus’ Priesthood + Beleiver’s Faith = Healing Miracle

    With Jesus emphasizing the believer’s faith, so they wouldnt place 100% of the miracle on Jesus’ shoulders. Jesus’ intent was not to create a cult of personality, but to get people to have a godly walk and emulate his life of deditcated service. If he didnt emphasize the believer’s faith, then people would focus on the miracle alone and assume it was some sort of mystical event that occurred solely as a result of being in the right place at the right time.

    Comment by Kurt — October 10, 2005 @ 7:00 am

Leave a comment

RSS feed for comments on this post.