“Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” -1 Peter 2:5

I received a very long, but well thought out set of questions from a seeker. To summarize, they wanted to know what the priesthood is, how it works (is it “magic”), why women can or cannot receive it, and what its limits are. We’ve already spoken on women and the priesthood. And, we’ve touched upon the priesthood generally as well. Let’s dig a little deeper.

What is the Priesthood

To the first question, the priesthood is a term used for two distinct things:

  1. The power of God
  2. The Offices of the Priesthood and Sisterhood

When we pray and that prayer is answered, that is the priesthood in action. Some things we do, as seekers, disciples, and priesthood holders, requires us to hold an Office of the Priesthood to run parts of the Fellowship. Seekers and disciples use the same priesthood, the power of God, without holding an office when we pray or use gifts of the Spirit.

Priesthood as Magic

To answer the second question, we have to ask what “magic” is. In a sense, the priesthood could be called magic as there is no scientific explanation as to why it works. As a priesthood holder, I have been moved by the Holy Spirit to use the power of God to heal the sick, comfort those in need of comfort, reveal God’s will to others, cast out demons, and more. And, I have seen this done by others. I don’t say this to brag, merely to testify that these things are real. There is no scientific reasoning for these miracles, thus some might call it “magic.”

To be more specific, magic and religion generally go hand-in-hand. With the exception of the orders of prayer and temple rituals, most Latter Day Saint/Mormon ordinances mirror those of many other Christian religions. Many religions baptize, have communion/sacrament, and other ordinances. These are the first part of the priesthood – using the power of God.

Theurgy and Thaumaturgy

There are two ways we may use God’s power. The first is theurgy. Theurgy is when we attempt to better ourselves through God. Disciples use theurgy when they fast, pray, and meditate. It is an attempt to create a oneness between us and deity. Jesus prayed to the Father that we would be one, even as he and the Father are one (John 17: 21). This is theurgy.

The second way we use God’s power is thaumaturgy. Thaumaturgy is also known as “wonder working” or “miracle working.” These would be the gifts of the Spirit, such as healing the sick.

Below is a chart with the some of the more common rituals performed by priesthood holders and the type of magic used and the office of the priesthood required.

PriesthoodOfficeRitualMagic TypeScriptureNotes
Aaronic/LeviticalMiriam/LeviticalDeaconN/A assist the teachersNoneCoC DaC 17:11c-f; LDS DaC 20:56-59
Aaronic/LeviticalMiriam/LeviticalTeacherN/A assist the priests and priestessesNoneCoC DaC 17:11c-f; DaC 20:56-59
Aaronic/LeviticalMiriam/LeviticalPriestPriestessAdminister the SacramentTheurgyCoC DaC 17:10a; LDS DaC 20:46Performed for the renewing of baptismal covenants
Aaronic/LeviticalMiriam/LeviticalPriestPriestessBaptizeTheurgyCoC DaC 17:10a; LDS DaC 20:46For the remission of sins
Aaronic/LeviticalMiriam/LeviticalPriestPriestessBaptism WitnessesNoneLDS DaC 128: 3To ensure that the ritual is completed correctly
Aaronic/LeviticalMiriam/LeviticalPriestPriestessOrdain others to the Aaronic/Levitical PriesthoodTheurgyCoC DaC 17:10c; LDS DaC 20:48To gain the ability to hold an office in the priesthood both to help run the Fellowship and to better one’s self and others through rituals and practices
MagdalineMelchizedekElderNaming and Blessing a ChildTheurgyCoC DaC 17:19; LDS DaC 20:70To give membership in the kingdom and prepare children for learning the Word until the age of accountability
MagdalineMelchizedekElderGift of the Holy GhostTheurgyCoC DaC 17: 8c; LDS DaC 20: 41To confirm membership in the kingdom and evoking the presence of the third member of the Godhead, binding Him to the new member
MagdalineMelchizedekElderConsecrating OilThaumaturgyExodus 30: 25Like attracts like – pure olive oil purifies for anointing and healing
MagdalineMelchizedekElderAnointing with OilThaumaturgyExodus 30: 25; James 5:14Like attracts like – pure olive oil purifies for anointing and healing
 MagdalineMelchizedekSealing the AnointingThaumaturgyJames 5:14Like attracts like – pure olive oil purifies for anointing and healing
MagdalineMelchizedekElderOrdain others to the Melchizedek PriesthoodTheurgyCoC DaC 17:8b; LDS DaC 20:39To the ministry both to help run the Fellowship and to better one’s self and others through rituals and practices
MagdalineMelchizedekElderFather’s Blessings/Blessings of Comfort/Counsel &  Patriarchal BlessingsTheurgy1 Timothy 4:14To gain guidance, counsel, wisdom, or comfort from the Holy Ghost through the hands of a minister
MagdalineMelchizedekElderDedicating GravesTheurgyN/ATo make the temporary resting place of the deceased a type of hollow
MagdalineMelchizedekElderDedicating Homes/BuildingsTheurgyN/ATo make the temporary resting place or house of worship for the living a type of hollow place that the Lord may enter
MagdalineMelchizedekHigh PriestHigh PriestessTemple Ordinance Work, and Leading Prayer CirclesTheurgyLDS DaC 110:7Initiatories into the Priesthood/Sisterhood, and Endowments of Power to help ministers in their duties.

Limits

The last question is on limits. What are the limits of the priesthood? Our faith. We cannot walk further than were are able nor carry more than we can lift. Using the priesthood, the power of God, is like using a muscle. The more we exercise our faith, the more it grows and the greater it becomes.

All gifts of the spirit use the priesthood and may be used by men and women alike. All miracles may be considered thaumaturgy, and some require the priesthood keys. Yet miracles may also be performed by men or women that are not ordained to the ministry, based of their faith and the grace of God. God has no limits, thus neither does the priesthood.

“Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light: which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.” -1 Peter 2:9-10