Joseph Smith’s “three grand orders” instruction.

Joseph Smith’s understanding of the priesthood was staggering, but we have only a fraction of his understanding. By that I don’t mean that we only understand a fraction of what he privately knew, which is certainly true, but that we only understand a fraction of what he revealed in scripture or publicly taught. Take his instruction about “three grand orders” found in TPJS pages 322-323. 
We will “versify” his instruction so it is easier to discuss. We start by recalling it.

(1) There are three grand orders of priesthood referred to here.

(2) 1st. The King of Shiloam (Salem) had power and authority over that of Abraham, holding the key and the power of endless life.
(3) Angels desire to look into it, but they have set up too many stakes.
(4) God cursed the children of Israel because they would not receive the last law from Moses.

(5) The sacrifice required of Abraham in the offering up of Isaac, shows that if a man would attain to the keys of the kingdom of an endless life; he must sacrifice all things.
(6) When God offers a blessing or knowledge to a man, and he refuses to receive it, he will be damned.
(7) The Israelites prayed that God would speak to Moses and not to them; in consequence of which he cursed them with a carnal law.

(8) What was the power of Melchizedek?
(9) ‘Twas not the Priesthood of Aaron which administers in outward ordinances, and the offering of sacrifices.
(10) Those holding the fulness of the Melchizedek Priesthood are kings and priests of the Most High God, holding the keys of power and blessings.
(11) In fact, that Priesthood is a perfect law of theocracy, and stands as God to give laws to the people, administering endless lives to the sons and daughters of Adam.

(12) Abraham says to Melchizedek, I believe all that thou hast taught me concerning the priesthood and the coming of the Son of Man; so Melchizedek ordained Abraham and sent him away.
(13) Abraham rejoiced, saying, Now I have a priesthood.

(14) Salvation could not come to the world without the mediation of Jesus Christ.

(15) How shall God come to the rescue of this generation?
(16) He will send Elijah the prophet.
(17) The law revealed to Moses in Horeb never was revealed to the children of Israel as a nation.
(18) Elijah shall reveal the covenants to seal the hearts of the father to the children, and the children to the fathers

(19) The anointing and sealing is to be called, elected and made sure.

(20) “Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like unto the Son of God, abideth a priest continually.”
(21) The Melchizedek Priesthood holds the right from the eternal God, and not by descent from father and mother; and that priesthood is as eternal as God Himself, having neither beginning of days nor end of life.

(22) The 2nd Priesthood is Patriarchal authority.
(23) Go to and finish the temple, and God will fill it with power, and you will then receive more knowledge concerning this priesthood.

(24) The 3rd is what is called the Levitical Priesthood, consisting of priests to administer in outward ordinances, made without an oath; but the Priesthood of Melchizedek is by an oath and covenant.
(25) The Holy Ghost is God’s messenger to administer in all those priesthoods.
(26) Jesus Christ is the heir of this Kingdom–the Only Begotten of the Father according to the flesh, and holds the keys over all this world.

(27) Men have to suffer that they may come upon Mount Zion and be exalted above the heavens.

(28) I know a man that has been caught up to the third heavens, and can say, with Paul, that we have seen and heard things that are not lawful to utter. (Aug. 27, 1843.) DHC 5:554-556.

——————————————-

(1) There are three grand orders of priesthood referred to here.

(2) 1st. The King of Shiloam (Salem) had power and authority over that of Abraham, holding the key and the power of endless life.
(3) Angels desire to look into it, but they have set up too many stakes.
(4) God cursed the children of Israel because they would not receive the last law from Moses.
So here we learn that Melchizedek (the  King of Shiloam) has power and authority over that of Abaham. Specifically Melchizedek held “the key and the power of endless life”, and Abraham did not. Let’s not pretend that when we were ordained to the Melchizedek priesthood that we received power and authority that Abraham didn’t have.
Joseph Smith then says “(3) Angels desire to look into it, but they have set up too many stakes”. That sentence is hard for us to make much sense of. But Joseph Smith uses the phrase “set up too many stakes” in a number of places so we can figure out what it meant to him by looking at his other uses of it. It will turn out to fit the rest of what he teaches here nicely. Elsewhere he uses the phrase “set up too many stakes” for those who either reject something offered by God, or limit what God is allowed to command, require, or teach them to fit within their own traditions. Joseph Smith said:
It is the constitutional disposition of mankind to set up stakes and set bounds to the works and ways of the Almighty.
as well as having stated shortly before in this very discourse that:
I say to all those who are disposed to set up stakes for the Almighty, You will come short of the glory of God. To become a joint heir of the heirship of the Son, one must put away all his false traditions.
Thus the last sentence “(4) God cursed the children of Israel because the would not receive the last law from Moses” continues the thought that “(3) Angels desire to look into it, but they have set up too many stakes”. Joseph Smith’s specifically use of the word “Angels” here is probably a reference to the sort of doctrine found in the scriptures.

D&C 132:37 Abraham received concubines, and they bore him children; and it was accounted unto him for righteousness, because they were given unto him, and he abode in my law; as Isaac also and Jacob did none other things than that which they were commanded; and because they did none other things than that which they were commanded, they have entered into their exaltation, according to the promises, and sit upon thrones, and are not angels but are gods.

Continuing Joseph Smith’s instruction about “three grand orders”:
(5) The sacrifice required of Abraham in the offering up of Isaac, shows that if a man would attain to the keys of the kingdom of an endless life; he must sacrifice all things. 
(6) When God offers a blessing or knowledge to a man, and he refuses to receive it, he will be damned. 
(7) The Israelites prayed that God would speak to Moses and not to them; in consequence of which he cursed them with a carnal law.
So Abraham wanted the keys of the kingdom of an endless life. He wanted the greater keys and power that Melchizedek had, but that he did not. But to attain it, he didn’t just need to be ordained and Elder. He could only attain it by being willing to sacrifice all things. This should be tied with Joseph Smith’s teaching that:

A religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation.

The statement “
(6) When God offers a blessing or knowledge to a man, and he refuses to receive it, he will be damned” appears to be the same thing being said in (3) Angels desire to look into it, but they have set up too many stakes” but laid out more explicitly. In verse (6) it says they are damned. In verse (3) it says they are Angels. Both are equally true. They are damned in that they miss exaltation, becoming only Angels. Again, just as in the previous paragraph Joseph Smith illustrates this with ancient Israel. That is we have “(7) The Israelites prayed that God would speak to Moses and not to them; in consequence of which he cursed them with a carnal law” as an illustration of “(6) When God offers a blessing or knowledge to a man, and he refuses to receive it, he will be damned.”

Continuing Joseph Smith’s instruction:

(8) What was the power of Melchizedek?
(9) ‘Twas not the Priesthood of Aaron which administers in outward ordinances, and the offering of sacrifices.
(10) Those holding the fulness of the Melchizedek Priesthood are kings and priests of the Most High God, holding the keys of power and blessings.
(11) In fact, that Priesthood is a perfect law of theocracy, and stands as God to give laws to the people, administering endless lives to the sons and daughters of Adam.

The characters in our story thus far have been Abraham who didn’t have the keys and power of endless life and Melchizedek who did. Abraham wants the keys of eternal life himself. Joseph Smith has repeatedly that if we are offered a blessing from God and reject it we will be damned because we have set up stakes for the almighty. He has twice given the Israelite’s rejection of the Lord’s offer to speak with them as an example. Apparently, and this sounds like an important part of the story, Abraham leans that to gain the keys he wants, he will have to be willing to sacrifice all things, and his sacrifice of Isaac was part of a test the Lord gave him. That appears to be part of what was required by the Lord in order for Abraham to receive the keys and power he desired from Melchizedek.

From other sources it is clear that the phrase “the fulness of the Melchizedek priesthood” is not what one receives when one is ordained an Elder or a High Priest (see the long JST at the end of Gen 14). From verse 10 we see that those who have the fulness of the Melchizedek priesthood are kings and priests, whereas I have only been ordained that I might, if I prove faithful, one day become a king and a priest to the Most High. When I got the Melchizedek priesthood I got a small sapling, not the full grown enormous tree that is called the fulness of the Melchizedek priesthood.

Now we have a climax, a culmination of all the preceding instruction:

(12) Abraham says to Melchizedek, I believe all that thou hast taught me concerning the priesthood and the coming of the Son of Man; so Melchizedek ordained Abraham and sent him away.
(13) Abraham rejoiced, saying, Now I have a priesthood.

Joseph has repeatedly said that when we refuse to receive a blessing God offers then we are damned, we will become angels and not Gods. The significance of verse (12) is that Abraham is saying he will believe (or accept) all that the Lord is teaching and offering him. Because of that, he is then given the desired keys. This required the sacrifice of all things. Unlike Israel, who rejected what the Lord offered and was cursed for it, this verse is saying that Abraham, when offered needed greater light and knowledge accepted it completely in all its ramifications, including the requirements it made of himself. Therefore Abraham could be ordained with the keys he desired, and he went away rejoicing saying “Now I have a priesthood”.

The remaining verses on the Melchizedek priesthood are
(14) Salvation could not come to the world without the mediation of Jesus Christ.
(15) How shall God come to the rescue of this generation?
(16) He will send Elijah the prophet.
(17) The law revealed to Moses in Horeb never was revealed to the children of Israel as a nation.
(18) Elijah shall reveal the covenants to seal the hearts of the father to the children, and the children to the fathers
(19) The anointing and sealing is to be called, elected and made sure.

(20) “Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like unto the Son of God, abideth a priest continually.”
(21) The Melchizedek Priesthood holds the right from the eternal God, and not by descent from father and mother; and that priesthood is as eternal as God Himself, having neither beginning of days nor end of life.
We usually think of the Melchizedek priesthood in terms of the traditional sorts of things one does when one is ordained an Elder. But Joseph Smith is not talking about the Melchizedek priesthood in part, or what we initially received when confirmed to be an Elder. In his division into three grand orders he has made the Melchizedek priesthood one of the divisions, but he is using the fullness of the Melchizedek priesthood – the full thing it is intended to grow into – not what re receive when we are initially ordained to be an Elder.

As evidence of that let me point out that when we read the phrase in verse 20 “made like unto the Son of God, abideth a preist continually”. That is not a reference to just being ordained an Elder. We are not “made like unto the Son of God” and “abide in that continually” when we are first ordained an Elder. But this is his culmination of what the Melchizedek priesthood is about. It brings to mind the description in Alma 13: 

Alma 13:9 Thus they become high priests forever, after the order of the Son, the Only Begotten of the Father, who is without beginning of days or end of years, who is full of grace, equity, and truth. And thus it is. Amen.

 11 Therefore they were called after this holy order, and were sanctified, and their garments were washed white through the blood of the Lamb.
 12 Now they, after being sanctified by the Holy Ghost, having their garments made white, being pure and spotless before God, could not look upon sin save it were with abhorrence; and there were many, exceedingly great many, who were made pure and entered into the rest of the Lord their God.
This description of men who repented and worked such righteousness that their garments were washed white and they were sanctified and could no longer look upon sin save with abhorrence is not a description of a newly ordained Elder or High Priest. This sounds like someone who can say, with Abraham “Now I have a priesthood”. It is in these terms that Joseph Smith describes the Melchizedek priesthood: in its fullest manifestations rather than in the young sapling form that it is initially bestowed upon us in.
Joseph Smith points out in verse 14 that salvation could not come without the mediation of Jesus Christ. Then he points out one of the ways that Christ has mediated to save this generation. He sent Elijah and will reveal the covenants (not revealed to ancient Israel) to seal the hearts of the fathers to the children and the children to the fathers, as well as to anoint and seal someone, making their calling and election sure.
So the Melchizedek priesthood culminates in the sealing power: in the power to seal families, do work for our dead, and in particular in being sealed up unto eternal life. That is not where most of us would end a discussion on the Melchizedek priesthood. But Joseph Smith is talking about the fullness of the Melchizedek priesthood and that is not obtained when we are simply ordained an Elder.
After all, we remember that Joseph Smith taught:
“If a man gets a fullness of the priesthood of God he has to get it in the same way that Jesus Christ obtained it, and that was by keeping all the commandments and obeying all the ordinances of the house of the Lord.” (TPJS 308)
So we must keep all the commandments and obey all the ordinances of the house of the Lord if we are too, with Abraham, be able to say “Now I have a priesthood”. Or put differently, if we are to become kings and priests unto the most high God then we must keep all the commandments and obey all the ordinances of the house of the Lord just as Christ did.  
The second grand order that Joseph Smith refers to is Patriarchal authority. He states
(22) The 2nd Priesthood is Patriarchal authority.
(23) Go to and finish the temple, and God will fill it with power, and you will then receive more knowledge concerning this priesthood.

If we watch the temple endowment and sealing ordinance there are certainly some teachings about Patriarchal authority. 
Certainly we know that

D&C 131: 1 In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees;

2 And in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this order of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage];
3 And if he does not, he cannot obtain it.
4 He may enter into the other, but that is the end of his kingdom; he cannot have an increase.
And it seems that this eternal marriage is the Patriarchal authority that Joseph Smith refers to (interestingly, being one of the ordinances of the house of the Lord this is one of the ordinances the Savior had to obey to obtain the fulness of the Melchizedek priisthood as well).
We live in an age that completely rejects patriarchal authority with indignant feminist self righteousness, even among many of the best of us.
Thus eternal marriage is one step along the way to the fullness of the Melchizedek priesthood that Joseph Smith uses here to discuss the Melchizedek order of the priesthood. And the sealing power which is part of the Melchizedek priesthood is necessary to being about the sealing of husband and wife.

But Patriarchal power is a grand order of the priesthood that Joseph Smith describes as being distinct from the Melchizedek priesthood and distinct from the Levitical priesthood and that we are to learn about, at least in part, by going into the temple to learn about it. Certainly there is something profound about the fact that men can become kings and priests unto the most high God, but while women can become queens and priestesses, they do not become so to the most high God, but unto their husbands.

Joseph Smith’s description of the third grand order of the priesthood, the Levitical priesthood, is about what we expect.

The Holy Ghost is God’s messenger in all these priesthoods. Thus the Patriarchal power Joseph Smith refers to is for members of the true church, as it requires the gift of the Holy Ghost as a messenger for it to operate properly. Also the Levites were necessarily baptized and received the Holy Ghost (by one of hose few who held the Melchizedek priesthood), or they could not have administered in their priesthood. 

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John Robertson

I am nothing more than a regular member of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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