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The Aaronic Priesthood is the lesser of the two (or sometimes three) orders of priesthood recognized in Mormonism. The others are the Melchizedek Priesthood and the rarely-recognized Patriarchal Priesthood. Unlike the Melchizedek Priesthood, which is modeled after the authority of Jesus and the Apostles, or the Patriarchal Priesthood, which is modeled after the authority of Abraham, the Aaronic Priesthood is modeled after the priesthood of Aaron and his descendents. The Aaronic Priesthood is thought to be a "branch" or an "appendage" of the more powerful Melchizedek Priesthood.
History of the Aaronic Priesthood
Mormons believe that ancient prophets and apostles conferred the Priesthood directly upon Joseph Smith, Jr. and other early members of the Church. The conferral of the Aaronic Priesthood on Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery is recorded in Joseph Smith - History as follows:
- "[W]e. . . went into the woods to pray and inquire of the Lord respecting baptism for the remission of sins, that we found mentioned in the translation of the plates[The Book of Mormon],. . . . While we were thus employed, praying and calling upon the Lord, a messenger from heaven descended in a cloud of light, and having laid his hands upon us, he ordained us, saying:
- "Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah, I confer the Priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; and this shall never be taken again from the earth until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness.
- "He said this Aaronic Priesthood had not the power of laying on hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, but that this should be conferred on us hereafter; and he commanded us to go and be baptized, and gave us directions that I should baptize Oliver Cowdery, and that afterwards he should baptize me.
- "Accordingly we went and were baptized. . . .
- "The messenger who visited us on this occasion and conferred this Priesthood upon us, said that his name was John, the same that is called John the Baptist in the New Testament, and that he acted under the direction of Peter, James and John, who held the keys of the Priesthood of Melchizedek, which Priesthood, he said, would in due time be conferred on us, and that I should be called the first Elder of the Church, and he (Oliver Cowdery) the second. . . .
- "Immediately on our coming up out of the water after we had been baptized, we experienced great and glorious blessings from our Heavenly Father. No sooner had I baptized Oliver Cowdery, than the Holy Ghost fell upon him, and he stood up and prophesied many things which should shortly come to pass. And again, so soon as I had been baptized by him, I also had the spirit of prophecy, when, standing up, I prophesied concerning the rise of this Church, and many other things connected with the Church, and this generation of the children of men. We were filled with the Holy Ghost, and rejoiced in the God of our salvation."
Aaronic Priesthood as practiced in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Aaronic Priesthood has taken on a role as a source of training and leadership for adolescent boys and new converts. Holders of the priesthood whom the Church considers worthy are advanced to an office in the Melchizedek Priesthood as a matter of course after the age of about 18, or in the case of adult converts, after about a year of active Church membership.
The Aaronic Priesthood is open only to men and boys, twelve years old or older, who are considered worthy after a personal interview with a local bishop. Requirements for worthiness include abstaining unmarried sex, following the Word of Wisdom (a Mormon health code), and attending church services.
The offices of the Aaronic Priesthood are organized primarily by age, and an adolescent boy will automatically advance to the next office if found worthy upon reaching the appropriate age. Ordination to the Aaronic Priesthood is by the laying on of hands.
Aaronic Priesthood holders of the same office are organized into a quorum (small group), led by a president and counselors within each quorum.
|Aaronic Priesthood offices in the LDS Church|
|Bishop||18 and older||Preside over local wards (congregations), administer temporal and spiritual welfare to their wards and officiate as a common judge in Israel; a Bishop is also President of the Aaronic Priesthood in his ward; a literal descendant of Levi is entitled to this office, but it may be filled by a High Priest if no Levitical descendant is present in the ward. The Bishop is typically the presiding High Priest in a congregation.|
|Priest||16 and older||Prepare and bless the sacrament, baptize, ordain other Priests, Teachers and Deacons and all the duties of a Teacher|
|Teacher||14 and older||Prepare the Sacrament, home teach and all the duties of a Deacon|
|Deacon||12 and older||Keys of the ministering of angels, pass the Sacrament and collect Fast Offerings|
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