By Cordell and Janice Vail

21 Sep 2003

Copyright 2003 by Cordell Vail, all rights reserved

A weekly email gospel message for the descendents of Ammon and Winona Vail

By What Authority?

Here is another question someone asked me. Though there is little chance the person being asked about would ever read this, I left out any reference to the names of the persons involved so if the person being discussed did ever read this they would not be offended.

Here is the question:

We have a question for you.

We know a man who has recently found out that the man who ordained him a high priest was excommunicated from the church. He is claiming that now his ordination is invalid, and he is only an elder. He wants something spelled out in the scriptures or the official policies of the Church to prove he still has the office of High Priest.

Here is my answer:

You of course will not find anything that specific in the Bishops handbook and especially not in the scriptures.

However here are some POINTS TO PONDER:

Sometimes we have to establish "POLICY" of the church by prescience (and the difference between "DOCTRINE" and "POLICY" is another who different subject for another time). But it is important to note that the Policy of the church can be changed. The Doctrine of the Church can not be changed. For example, the fact God the Father has a body is "DOCTRINE", the fact that blacks can hold the priesthood is a "POLICY". Many people in the early days (including some General Authorities though blacks not holding the priesthood was a DOCTRINE) Many people mix the two up even today. I think this man is mixing up "POLICY" with "DOCTRINE".

So lets take a few examples.

THE FULL POWER OF THE PRIESTHOOD: If a man who has been given the Melchizedek Priesthood, is endowed and was married in the temple is excommunicated, he does not lose the priesthood when he was excommunicated (I assume this man who ordained him fits this description). You can not take the Melchizedek Priesthood away from someone once they have it. If he is rebaptized they do not RE-CONFER THE PRIESTHOOD on him. He already has it. They just do what they call a "RESTORATION OF BLESSINGS". While he is excommunicated he has the priesthood but it is put in abeyance and he can not use it. But when he has his blessing restored he can use the priesthood again and THEN THEY DO RE-ORDAIN HIM TO AN OFFICE IN THE PRIESTHOOD. So even though this man who ordained him a High Priest has been excommunicated, he has not lost the Melchizedek Priesthood. It has just been put in abeyance and he has been released from all of his church callings for now (including being a High Priest) but he has not be RELEASED FROM THE PRIESTHOOD AUTHORITY HE USED TO ORDAIN THIS MAN A HIGH PRIEST....

(I was taught this by LeGrand Richards when I was in his office with a friend who had been excommunicated and he let me come with him for his restoration of blessings)

It is important to understand the difference here in doctrine and policy in the church.

The office we hold in the Melchizedek priesthood is just a calling in the church. It has NO BEARING on our power of the priesthood what ever. When we have the Melchizedek Priesthood conferred on us we have all the priesthood there is to have. There are other offices we can receive but NOT MORE PRIESTHOOD. There is nothing related to the priesthood that an Apostle can do that an Elder can not do.

There are obviously many things that an Apostle can do while holding that office that are related to that office that an Elder can not do but the Apostle does not have any more priesthood authority than the Elder as far as Priesthood. When we become Gods we will not get "ANOTHER PRIESTHOOD". We already have all of it now that there is to have. Being a GOD is just another calling in that priesthood.

An Elder and a High Priest have the same power to bless the sick as an Apostle.Priesthood offices are callings. Some of the callings like Bishop, Patriarch, Seventy and Apostle are permanent callings that say with you and even when we are released or ordained to a different office and so you are no longer called upon to exercises the rights of that CALLING or office in the priesthood anymore, but we still hold the office (unless you are excommunicated). Once a deacon, always a deacon.

Once you are ordained a Bishop and then are released, if you are called again to be a Bishop a second time, they do not RE-ORDAIN you a Bishop, they just set you apart again to preside as the Bishop in that ward.

Here is a little different twist on that. When Orson Pratt was excommunicated for getting mad at Joseph Smith, a few weeks later, he was rebaptized. They did not re-confer the Melchizedek priesthood upon him, his blessings were all just restored back to him. "PRIESTHOOD BLESSINGS". But he had to be RE-ORDAINED an Apostle and he lost his seniority in the Quorum of the 12. Those two things were not a part of his "PERMANENT PRIESTHOOD BLESSINGS". The blessings received by the conferral of the Melchizedek priesthood and by his Temple Sealings were not lost and those things were just restored. But his office in the Priesthood was lost and his seniority was lost and could not be restored.

His original ordination to the quorum of the 12 was before Wilford Woodruff. Orson Pratt was still alive in 1880 when Wilford Woodruff became the President Of the Church so Orson Pratt would have been the Prophet if he had not been excommunicated... (and they would have probably then named BYU after him instead of Brigham Young. So it would have been OPU not BYU.... That would have been really bad because then the OPU football team would have been called the little stinkers... Ha ha ha.. .Ok OK back to the subject)

So being a High Priest is just a calling in the Melchizedek priesthood. It is a privilege to have that calling. Once you are ordained a High Priest you can be ordained a Patriarch. Then you are serving as a patriarch and your calling as a High Priest is put aside for a time. You still hold the office but not the calling. So that Patriarch is still a Deacon, Teacher, Elder, High Priest and now acts as Patriarch..... but can still baptize, bless the sacrament, and give priesthood blessings just like a Priest or Elder.

And even though you are normally not released when you are ordained to a different office in the priesthood you COULD BE. You could not be a high priest any more (see excommunication example)

In the past there have been things in different priesthood offices that one office could do that another could not. For example a Priest can bless the sacrament and baptize but a Deacon can only pass the sacrament. A High Priest can preside over a ward where an Elder can not. So a priesthood office is a little like a calling.

There have been lots of policy changes in the last few years and no explanations have been given to us now like in the past as to what the church policy is on these offices. We were never told why we no longer have a Church Patriarch who was sustained as one of the Prophets, Seers, and Revelators. They just released him and his son who was in line to be next (who went on a mission at the same time as me) was just told that office that passed from father to son was abolished...???? no explanation to the church as to way?????

Before a High Priest could not ordain a Seventy. I think that is still the "POLICY"???? That is why President McKay ordained all the members of the first quorum of 70 as High Priests. They were general authorities and went out to stake conferences. I remember when S. Dillworth Young came to our stake conference in Georgia as the one of the First Quorum of Seventy and ordained me a 70.

So when they went out on stake conference assignments and were members of the 1st Quorum of 70 but were not ordained High Priests, they could NOT call Stake Presidents and ORDAIN THEM HIGH PRIESTS. Before President McKay made that change in "POLICY" members of the 1st Quorum of 70 could not do that. It was originally thought that this was "THE ORDER OF HEAVEN" (see John A. Widtsoe, Priesthood and Church Government, p.118) but President McKay changed it. So we see it was a policy not doctrine.

But back in the old days Zebadee Coltron was one of the members of the Presidency of the 1st Quorum of Seventy and he has ordained a High Priest by one of the Apostles with out Joseph Smith being asked about it. When Joseph Smith found out he had been ordained a High Priest, he released him. He said you can not be in the 70's quorum if you are a High Priest.... So see how those policies change with each President of the Church?

Now President Hinckley has released all of the members of the church who are not general authorities from the 70's quorums of the church. He then ordained all of the Area Authority 70's who had never been ordained 70s as 70's so they have that special witness.

So now can a 70 ordain a High Priest? I don't know if they changed that policy or not because so far every general authority that has been called as an area authority seventy or as a member of one of the seventies quorums has already been a high priest.

So I don't know what they will do if an Elder is called directly to being an Area Authority Seventy or as one of the members of the Seventy's quorum. That is unlikely that he would be called without being a Bishop and a Stake President first... So he would already be a High Priest..... We will see. It is just a "POLICY" not a doctrine so it is not important.

If the President of the Church decided to (and they have been considering this) they could put all of the High Priest's back in the Elders Quorum and only have people be called as High Priests when they serve in Bishoprics and Stake Presidencies and when they are released they would then be released as a High Priest. (Our Stake President in Utah told us that one of the General Authorities had asked his opinion about doing that and just said it was being considered but as you see has never been implemented yet)

But I assume that by "policy" if it did happen and you had been a High Priest and then released back to serve in the Elders Quorum again. If you were then called as a Stake President having already been a High Priest once before, you would not be re-ordained a High Priest just like a Bishop is not re-ordained a Bishop if he serves a second time but would just be set apart as a Stake President.... NOW I AM GUESSING ??????

We simply have not been told this much detail on the "POLICIES" of the priesthood like we were back in the old days when general authorities wrote books like Priesthood and Church Government and Answers to Gospel Questions...

But we saw that happen when they dissolved the Seventies of the church. Those who were Seventies were either ordained High Priests or started attending the Elders Quorum. They no longer serve as Seventies. We have two men in our ward right now who are still seventies. They are not an Elders and they are not High Priests... they are still Seventies serving in the Elders Quorum.... THAT IS A POLICY...

So we can ask then if a person was a seventy are they still one? I was? When I was ordained a 70 a witness like fire came into me like no witness I have ever received before in my life. I still feel that witness to this very day. I know what President Hinckley meant when he said he was ordaining the Area Authority Seventies as 70's so they could have that "SPECIAL WITNESS".

So I assume if someone who had been a seventy before was now called as an area authority seventy they would not have to RE-ORDAIN him a seventy. Unless you are excommunicated you keep the office (AND THE WITNESS I CAN ASSURE YOU).

So your friend is just bickering over POLICY... not doctrine...

(you already know that it is unlikely that any of this will change his mind but it is interesting to talk about).

Now lets consider some other things that may be more closely related to his direct question.

Every Sunday we go to Sacrament Meeting and take the sacrament. That Sacrament is "BLESSED" by a priest. I ask you to present this question to him. If that priest was out smoking last night then is the Sacrament still blessed?


So how worthy does a priest have to be in order for the sacrament to be blessed? Who will judge. What sins would disqualify him? How can the congregation know what that priest did in secret last night if you can not smell it like smoking? Can the Sacrament be 1/2 blessed if one of them is worthy and one is not? Or does the priest have the priesthood authority to bless the sacrament even if he is not worthy? And if he does bless it unworthily then it is the sacrament still blessed but the sin be upon the Priest for doing it unworthily? Something to think about. We have a worse problem than that... priests picking their noses before the bless it.... YUCK... one man leaves about every other week and wont take the sacrament if this one priest is blessing because of that.... YUCK... Sorry.. I got carried away there... So lets also ask him another question about taking the Sacrament. If he takes the sacrament him self unworthily does that void the whole ceremony for everyone else in the room?

Now here is another closer example to what he is talking about.

Years ago Elder Lyman was an Apostle and he was excommunicated 12 Nov 1943 for adultery. It just happens that the week before he was excommunicated (but after he had already committed the sin) he went to St. George to a Stake Conference. As a part of presiding over that Stake Conference he released the old Stake President and selected a new one. Well you can imagine the uproar the next week when it was announced that he had been excommunicated. Many of the people in the Stake refused to sustain the new Stake President because he was selected by an Apostle that was not worthy at the time he called the Stake President and now he had been excommunicated..... (I think this fits our mans case pretty close).

So the next week Heber J. Grant who was the President of the Church then sent one of the other Apostles back down to the stake next week to hold a special stake conference. He told them that "When Elder Lyman stood up to preside at the stake conference, he stood up as an Apostle, when he sat back down he sat back down into his sin". He refused to call a new stake president. He said that the Stake President had been called by the Lord through an Apostle that was called as an Apostle at the time.

Another point related to this story, Elder Lyman was ordained an Apostle in 1918 and then excommunicated in1943. During those 25 years he had ordained hundreds of High Priests and Bishops and set apart scores of Stake Presidents. Does your friend then propose now that all those ordinations were void and the Church would have to go back and find every Bishop, High Priest and Stake President that Elder Lyman ever ordained or set apart and re-ordain or reset them apart. All of them so they would not just only ELDERS again?

Another point related to this mans views then is this fact. The original quorum of the twelve were ordained Apostles by the three witnesses. They were all three excommunicated. Does that mean that all the apostles including Brigham Young, Wilford Woodruff, and John Taylor were no longer Apostles but only ELDERS? What does that say about our priesthood line of authority then. Those three Apostles became Presidents of the Church and ordained scores of other Apostles, High Priests, Seventies, Bishops and Stake Presidents. Are all those ordinations null and void because the three witnesses were eventually excommunicated? Do we have to go find all of them including every man who was ordained by any one they ordained (which by the way includes me then) and re-ordain them all? Who would have that authority? He is saying we lost the priesthood authority because Brigham Young was ordained by the three witnesses not Joseph Smith. So the priesthood line of authority is broken if what your friends believes is true.

(I will try to find the source for this story about Elder Lyman and the St. George Stake President so you can let your friend read it himself)

I have heard of several people get off on this priesthood line of authority kick, but without exception when I have watched them over the next few years I have then found out that there is something amiss in their own life. We of course can not interview this man but if you will wait and see, you will eventually find out that he is not living the commandments or he would not have this attitude... YOU WILL LIVE TO SEE THAT, I PROMISE YOU...

That is why I am guessing that he is not living the commandments. The Holy Ghost would not tell him these things. He is being prompted by an evil spirit and that is where his doubts, spirit of contention and rebellious attitude comes from. Breaking the commandments invites evil spirits into our lives and they whisper to us and because we dont have the Holy Ghost we listen to them. You can not talk to him about his personal life right now of course. You can only show him these examples and let him decide and as you say, it likely will not change his attitude right now. Nothing will as long as he is breaking the commandments.

Sometimes if we use these times to work with people and stay with them and not judge them or condemn them but love them..... sometimes over long periods of time we can become close enough to them that we can win their trust and they will confide in us and then you can help them start living the commandments. Once they do that, then they will just not have the question anymore because when the spirit comes back into their lives the Holy Ghost will teach him that he is wrong and the influences from the evil spirts whispering to him will just go away.

The feeling he is not a High Priest is like Covey's example of the Ice Burg. 2/3's of the problem (Ice Burg) is under water where you can not see it. The problems in his life are being manifest in the outward rebellion over the high priest thing (the part showing out of the water) but the real INWARD problems in his life that are causing the rebellion lie under the water hidden from common view, where they can not be seen by the normal person associating with him. Those things can only be seen by discernment.

But if you are prayerful and patient and loving with him, the Holy Ghost will help you discern what is under the spiritual water in his life and you can help eventually him. Answering his question with doctrine or scripture most likely will not help him. Only helping him start to live the commandments will. Until you do that it is likely that NOTHING WILL CHANGE HIS MIND ABOUT BEING A HIGH PRIEST. Not even the priesthood leaders like the Stake President.

You say the Bishop and Stake President have both tried to explain the to him but he will not believe them. Isn't it interesting that one of the temple recommend questions is "do you sustain the LOCAL and general authorities.... when people are asked that question they just say YES... but for some reason one seems to ever define the word "SUSTAIN" to a person like this where they can understand what it truly means.

There you have my epistle on Priesthood Line Of Authority

NOTE: Nothing in any of these Sunday Sermons is intended to represent the official doctrines of the Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They are strictly instructions and teachings from Cordell and Janice Vail to their family.

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NOTE: Nothing in any of these Sunday Sermons is intended to represent the official doctrines of the Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They are strictly instructions and teachings from Cordell and Janice Vail to their family.