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How Did Nephites Get Priesthood? (Part 10 of 12)

According to the Law of Moses, priesthood holders had to be from the Tribe of Levi.  Lehi was from the Tribe of Joseph, so that’s a problem.  Nephi built a temple on the model of Solomon’s Temple.  So how did the Nephites get priesthood?  Historian Don Bradley says the answer might be in the lost pages, and speculates how Nephite priesthood functioned.

Don:  That model of priesthood, where you have a king, who is a priest, has biblical precedent. The precedent is not ancient Israel’s Levitical priesthood. The precedent goes back earlier to the time of Abraham, when you have Melchizedek who is portrayed as a king and a priest. So the idea of people being ordained kings and priests, the gendered equivalent of which might be queens and priestesses, might be familiar to some people associated with Mormonism. I don’t know, maybe, the model for that, and one that Joseph Smith explicitly invokes in Nauvoo, talking about people being made kings and priests, queens and priestesses is Melchizedek.

So the model of priesthood among the Nephites is not Levitical. They replace a Levitical model priesthood with a Melchizedek model of priesthood. Those terms, Levitical or Aaronic, among others, are so familiar to Latter-day Saints. But they’re kind of familiar to us mostly in a different context that would give a different twist on what they mean. The model of priesthood here is Melchizedek in the biblical sense of Melchizedek being both King and high priest. So that’s the Nephite model of Priesthood.

Check out our conversation….

Historian Don Bradley believes he has found historical records that explain how Nephites exercised priesthood despite having no Levites among them.

Don’t miss our previous conversations with Don.

362: Who Stole the Manuscript?

361: Exonerating Lucy Harris

360: Masonic Golden Plates & Temple Theology

359: Temple Endowment in Lost Pages

358: Laban Killed During Passover

357: More than 116 Pages Lost?

356: How Much of BoM is Missing?

355: Re-Writing Oliver’s Words: Dirty, Nasty, Filthy Scrape?

354: Dating Fanny Alger

2 thoughts on “How Did Nephites Get Priesthood? (Part 10 of 12)

  1. The whole notion of priesthood as a thing (an abstract authority) that someone can “hold” is strictly a modern LDS notion. It does not exist in the Book of Mormon. Or in the Bible. Priesthood anciently (and in all other modern Christian religions) was (and is) two things: the state of being a priest (just as motherhood is the state of being a mother) or a body of priests (like a neighborhood is a body of neighbors). Priesthood as authority was invented in the LDS tradition pretty much by 1835, but was not really solidified until the early 20th century. So, the question of how the Nephites “got” the priesthood is a nonsensical question and very anachronistic. In the ancient world, there was never anything called the Aaronic Priesthood or the Melchizedek Priesthood. These are modern constructions to describe a form of organizational authority that did not exist anciently. Just look up all eight references to “priesthood” in the Book of Mormon. They are all in Alma, and all refer to the “high priesthood,” in other words, the state of being a high priest, which meant something entirely different in the BoM than it does in today’s church.

  2. Joseph taught that all priesthood is Melchizedek. Considering Melchizedek is a change in nomenclature from the Holy Priesthood after the Order of the Son of God, this starts to make perfect sense. Aaronic is an appendage to the Melchizedek. What I’ve been saying all along is there “different portions or degrees”

    TPJS 180-181
    “Answer to the question, Was the Priesthood of Melchizedek taken away when Moses died? 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.”

    D&C 107
    5 All other authorities or offices in the church are appendages to this priesthood.
    6 But there are two divisions or grand heads—one is the Melchizedek Priesthood, and the other is the Aaronic or Levitical Priesthood.
    7 The office of an elder comes under the priesthood of Melchizedek.
    8 The Melchizedek Priesthood holds the right of presidency, and has power and authority over all the offices in the church in all ages of the world, to administer in spiritual things.
    9 The Presidency of the High Priesthood, after the order of Melchizedek, have a right to officiate in all the offices in the church.

    The Melchizedek priesthood performed the animalistic officiating of the mosaic sacrifices for the Nephites. The Melchizedek Priesthood covers it all as far as offices in the earthly church. This of the role of Bishop. It is the role of High Priest to be the Bishop, but the bishop oversees the Aaronic priesthood function.

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