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- Should we regard this division of priesthood as indicative of inherent and eternal differences or divisions? Or do the modifiers (Melchizedek, Aaronic and Levitical--and Patriarchal) serve some purpose other than that of classifying or subdividing priesthood?
- Why does the Lord describe "two" priesthoods when using three descriptive modifiers?
- How is a Latter-day Saint to understand this priesthood framework in light of the rituals of the ancient and modern temples? How did the Lord intend for Joseph and the Elders to receive it in the nineteenth century? How does that voice to nineteenth century members resonate today?
- Given the introductory language of the heading to the Section, when was this early portion of the Section received?
- Is the Lord saying that the Levitical priesthood is included in the Aaronic? Or in the combination of Aaronic and Melchizedek? Does the temple answer this question fully?
- Is addition to providing Latter-day Saints seeking for cursory answers with an explanation, is the Lord attempting to incorporate by reference the typology of Melchizedek's ministry? Not to mention the "King of Righteousness" element...
- "Holy" raises many implications and potential avenues for intertwining the Priesthood with the temple, the law of sacrifice, and the atonement, to name a few...
- What "Order" is being referenced? (Patriarchal? United? ...)
- Which name was being respected or reverenced? Calling it the Melchizedek Priesthood omits the phrase "after the Order of the Son of God." Was the concern for "Son?" Or "God?" Both of which are frequently used by Latter-day Saints...
- How does referring to the Priesthood as "Melchizedek" respect the Supreme Being's name? How does it reverence the name? How does it avoid too frequent repetition (given the other contexts in which both "Son" and "God" are used)?
- What other authorities exist in the church? Aaronic priesthood? Other priesthoods? Other authority? What other offices?
- What is an appendage to the priesthood? What has been identified as such? How do they append the Priesthood? Is the Lord seeking to turn our minds to Paul's teachings on members individually and collectively?
- Melchizedek. The historical twists and turns surrounding the usage of the name Melchizedek in pre-1835 Mormonism are rather complex. It did not appear at all in the 1833 Book of Commandments, and its place in D&C 68:15, 19 was the consequence of the editing of the revelations for the 1835 publication of the Doctrine and Covenants (that is, subsequent to the reception of section 107). Hence, only a few textual precedents can be cited for the sudden apperance here of Melchizedek, at least one of which was not widely disseminated: the Book of Mormon discussion of Melchizedek in Alma 13, the JST expansion on the Melchizedek story in Gen 14 (closely related, in many ways, to Alma's discourse on Melchizedek), and the reference in D&C 76:57. Of course, there had been discussion since the June 1831 "endowment of power" about both "the high priesthood" and "the order of Melchizedek," but there was not, until this revelation, any talk of "the Melchizedek Priesthood" as such. What all of this would seem to suggest is that any historically responsible interpretation of this passage would have to draw on a hermeneutic of all pre-Melchizedek-Priesthood passages discussing Melchizedek to get a clear sense of how this figure was understood in Mormonism.
- Order of the Son of God. This, much like the reference to Melchizedek, would have called the Vision to mind in 1835: "They are they who are priests and kings, who have received of his fulness, and of his glory; And are priests of the Most High, after the order of Melchizedek, which was after the order of Enoch, which was after the order of the Only Begotten Son: (D&C 76:56-57).
- Appendages. The word "appendages" had already been used three years previous in terms of the priesthood: cf. D&C 84:29-30. This earlier usage suggests the profoundly "Old Testament"—if not "Old Testament temple"—understanding of the priesthood that undergirds the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants.
Of Verses 1-58
As noted in the section heading, "various parts [of this revelation] were received at sundry times, some as early as November 1831." As a matter of fact, it is the later portion of the revelation that was received earlier: the first 58 verses seem without a doubt to have been received on March 28, 1835, while most of the remainder of the section can be found in the Kirtland Revelations Book under the date of November 1831 (some additions were made to the earlier text when it was included in the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants). The "various parts" would seem to have been united eventually on the somewhat tenuous grounds of their being something of a consistency of theme in the revelations: nominally, "ON PRIESTHOOD," as the heading read in the 1835 D&C. But there is certainly warrant for reading the first 58 verses of this section in isolation from the remainder of the text.
Reading the revelation in this way perhaps diffuses an overly taxonomic reading: rather than being obsessed with hierarchical divisions of the church's labor, the revelation might be read as concerning itself primarily with sorting out the meaning of the ancient priesthood and the way this ancient meaning is to be translated into the modern situation (especially in terms of the Kirtland House of the Lord). The theme of the ancient priesthood runs right through the whole revelation: not only is there an explanation, from the very first verses, about the provenance of the name of the high priesthood, but the revelation comes to its climax in an exploration of the ancient Adam-ondi-Ahman experience and how it bears on the meaning and place of the priesthood. It is apparently in light of these details that this revelation is best interpreted.
Given that overall heading ("ON PRIESTHOOD") the Lord deliberately instructs on the nature of Priesthood power by juxtaposing an assertion of "two priesthoods" with three names "Melchizedek," "Aaronic," and "Levitical" in verse one. This introductory remark to versus 1-58 suggests a desire to transgress the boundaries that a more superficial, hierarchical approach to priesthood might impose on a reader, while recognizing the instructive power of a range of descriptive modifiers for priesthood power. Significantly, the Patriarchal priesthood is not specifically mentioned in this verse, although it may arguably appear obliquely in verse three where the "Holy Priesthood, after the Order of the Son of God" adds to the three names of verse one. In approaching this revelation from such a backdrop, the ensuing discussion of "grand heads," "offices," "power and authority," "keys" and "offices" seems to manifest a voice of instruction focusing not on an organizational flow chart, but rather on priesthood genealogy and the relational significance attached to the "priesthoods."
- See here for the "original" revelation that is verses 1-58 of this section. See here for the "original" sources for the remainder of the section.
- See here for a series of posts on this section at boap.org.
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