What is True Priesthood?
by Azrael Ondi-Ahman
True priesthood has its birth in God, and is empowered by the manner in which you choose to live your life. It is through the act of priesthood that we learn to see as God sees, to feel as God feels and to understand as God understands.
No church or man can give you priesthood, for true priesthood has nothing to do with church authority. True priesthood has to do with the inherent power of God which lies deep within the spirit and soul of every man, woman and child who lives the mortal life. Priesthoods which proclaim loudly the authority of the church do so because they have nothing else to proclaim. But true priesthood seeks only to proclaim the living presence of God. The priesthood of the church has but one overriding mandate, and that mandate is the control and manipulation of church members. The true priesthood which comes from God (and which is born in you already) has only one mandate, and that mandate is the revelation of God’s presence in your life, and in the lives of those you love.
What then is priesthood? Priesthood is the inherent right of every man, woman and child to create any number of sacred moments which will draw forth the living presence of God through the spiritual uplifting of those you love. It is the presence of God which validates your priesthood; it was never church authority. The priesthood of the church is about lines of authority, it is about unquestioning obedience. This kind of priesthood is solely about the church, the church, and nothing but the church, so help you the church. Their doctrine is simple: “Never mind if it’s right or wrong, follow the brethren and the Lord will bless you.”
It is this attitude which has separated the church from God. However, the true priesthood of God does not permit you to abandon your moral responsibility concerning the right or wrong of any issue. You are responsible and you may never abandon that responsibility just because someone else says you must! I do not ask you to obey me. I only ask that you listen to me, weigh it in the hand and then decide for yourself. And if you truly desire the presence of God in your life, we will not stand too far apart from each other.
If you truly desire to create for yourself the sacred life where God is always present, then you must strive to reflect the same qualities of character as the Song of God reveals about God, and this is the purpose of priesthood. True priesthood is meant to empower you in the living of your life; it is never God’s intent that priesthood should prove a burden, or an anguish of the soul.
I remember an occasion when I was walking with God along a high mountain ridge, and the conversation turned to priesthood. God told me something very interesting: he said that if there was just one word which would define priesthood, then that word would be oneness. The years have passed since that day and I have had many occasions to reflect.
What then does God mean by oneness? Oneness is the art of bringing together opposing natures into a fellowship of harmony, balance and wholeness. This I why the perfect symbol of priesthood is a bridge, which spans the chasm and the flood so that others may cross safely over. The bridge is able to span the chasm because it is solidly anchored upon opposing shores. On one hand, your physical life is firmly anchored in the mortal life. But on the other hand, your spirit has its beginnings in Heaven where once you dwelt with God.
Priesthood is the means through which you connect with your greater spiritual self, enabling you to create a profound sense of oneness with God. And until you do create this sense of oneness, you will continue to feel disconnected with all things eternal. But priesthood is not only able to build a bridge between yourself and God, it would also encourage you to build a bridge between Heaven and your fellow man. Through priesthood you become the bridge through which others may have a glimpse of God; and this revelation – which has its birth in the priesthood you exercise, will create in them a desire to know and to touch God for themselves. This is the sole purpose of priesthood: to create a profound sense of oneness between man and God .
There is another word which would define the nature and disposition of priesthood, and that word is “selflessness”. If you truly desire to create for yourself the sacred life, if you truly yearn to be one with God, then begin by thinking less of yourself and more of others. You cannot be self absorbed and still expect to know and to touch the heart of God. To be great in the eyes of God, you must be selfless in your daily life. And to be truly selfless, to go beyond the taint of ‘me’ or ‘mine’ or ‘I’, you must embrace fully the will of God and make it as your own.
To aid you in this process, your Heavenly Parents have given you the gift of the Song of God. For it is only in this book that the true will of God is made manifest. Creating the sacred life through priesthood would be impossible without a good working knowledge of the scriptures. So study them, teach from them, live them, and the priesthood of God shall come alive within you, revealing before your eyes, a joy and beauty far greater than all your dreams.
Priesthood means empowerment. It is the power which enables you to become one with God, one with life, and one with your fellow man. The beginnings of this priesthood are found in the every-day occurrences of your life. In the moment of your birth, the patterns of your unfolding life begin to shape the very building blocks out of which the priesthood of your soul is to be fashioned. And as you grow from childhood, adolescence and into adulthood, all that is needed is for you to recognize the building blocks which will enable you to create the sacred life. Priesthood is the art of sacred living. It is something that is learned, tested and owned by the one who endeavors to touch the soul of God; by the one who is relentless in their resolve to chase after God until they achieve the state of oneness with their Heavenly Parents.
Priesthood is about perspective; not your perspective but God’s perspective. Priesthood is the act of being lifted up, of being drawn closer to God, and from that sublime elevation, seeing for yourself the larger picture and your place in it. It is to see with new eyes, causing to pass away all the shadows of your lesser self; replacing the sum of all your fears, despair and confusion with the love, hope and faith which is found in God alone. This divine perspective lifts you above the seeming smallness of your life, permitting you to see something far greater than yourself; something far greater than all your problems.
A few years ago, a very depressed middle-aged woman contemplated suicide. Her life seemed an endless litany of disappointment and tragedy. Her marriage was never good and it ended in a bitter divorce. Her children were grown and gone from home. On top of this she had just lost her job, her car was a wreck and her prospects for finding another job seemed slim. Each morning she woke up alone, depressed and frightened. One day she decided to take a long walk through the great city of New York. For hours she wandered aimlessly among the towering buildings of the great metropolis. There, walking along the city streets, dwarfed by the greatness of the city, she felt so insignificant, so small and helpless. And her problems seemed to be as towering and overwhelming as the tall buildings around her. There seemed to be no reason for her to live anymore. No one would care or even miss her if she were just to die. Ending her life seemed to be the only way to end the hurt and fear that she felt. It was not long before she came to the tallest building in the city, the Empire State building. And gathering up her resolve, she entered it and took the express elevator to the observation deck. Her mind was made up; she would throw herself off one of the tallest buildings in the world. And that would end her suffering.
However, when she reached the observation deck, the woman was struck by the panoramic view of the city, which now lay stretched out before her in every direction. She had never been so high up before. The vision of the great city took her breath away and filled her with sudden awe. The sky, which down on the street looked so pale and hazy with smog, was now the most beautiful blue she had ever seen. The sun was so warm and the air was clean and exhilarating to breathe. Beneath her lay the five great burrows of the city, the busy docks along the Hudson River, the Statue of Liberty far off in the distance, the summer green of Central Park, the Long Island Sound and the New Jersey shoreline.
All these things were revealed to her in a glance. No matter which way she turned to look, her very soul was met with vistas of the thriving metropolis; and in the distance the horizon seemed to go on forever. Down on the street, her problems seemed to be so overwhelming, but up here above the city, they seemed so small and unimportant. Her heart lifted and quietly her burdens of fear and despair seemed to drift and float away. She felt refreshed and invigorated. A new strength began to well up inside and she began to believe that no matter how dark things may appear, she knew that she could overcome them. Now, she no longer wished to die, she wanted to live.
Do you know what turned the woman from thoughts of suicide, to thoughts of life? It was perspective. Perspective did not make her problems go away, but it did give her the courage to face them, and to overcome them. Instead of being filled with darkness and despair, the vision afforded her by perspective allowed her to see her problems as a challenge which could be met and mastered. And with this new perspective a resolve was born which would enable her to meet life and to do it one better. She would no longer dread the coming of tomorrow, but would meet it calmly. Where there is hope, there is life. And where there is courage and resolve, there is victory.
Every day, people leave behind the hustle and bustle of the city; they let go of their occupations for a few days and they go to the mountains or the seashore. Why do they go? What are they looking for? They are looking for that one flash of vision which will put their life in a whole new perspective. And when that sudden flash of vision occurs, they feel renewed, refreshed and invigorated. Have you not done this yourself?
Priesthood is about perspective. I once saw a small child hold up her arms and ask her father to pick her up and hold her. The father bent down and lifted his daughter and held her in his arms. And then I saw the most interesting thing. The little girl, now being at eye level with her father, suddenly looked down to where she had once stood, and she smiled. Then she looked all around the room; instead of seeing the underside of things, she could see the tops of the table and cabinets. I could well imagine what her little mind was thinking: “So, this is how the world looks to my father.” It was the father’s perspective of things that the daughter wanted to see. And when her father shared it with her, in that moment they became one.
Again, priesthood is about perspective; not your perspective but God’s perspective. Priesthood is the act of being lifted up, of being drawn closer to God and seeing the world as God sees it. When you achieve God’s perspective of things, you become one with God. Whenever you pray or meditate, whenever you seek with eager heart to touch the sacred, then like the small child, you are holding up your arms to God, asking your Heavenly Parents to lift you up. In like fashion, whenever you engage in acts of priesthood, whenever you endeavor to live the sacred life, you help to lift up others so that they can see as God sees and understand as God understands.
You are the children of God, and there is never a time when you are too old or too wise to lift up your arms and petition your Heavenly Parents to lift you up just a little higher. Even Azrael is the child of his Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother. And regardless of all the sublime wonders which I have seen, regardless of all the mysteries which I know, or even regardless of all the scriptures which I have written, still I lift my arms up to God and ask to be lifted up just a little higher:
“I tell you truly, that except you be converted unto God, believing always, even as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of Heaven.
Whosoever, therefore, shall humble himself unto the Father, even as this child, the same is great in the kingdom of Heaven.
And whosoever shall receive another in faith, even as a child, receiveth me also; and whosoever shall receive me, the same shall receive unto his soul the presence of the Father.”
It is important that you understand God’s meaning behind the scriptures you have just read. God does not desire that you be childlike in the living of your mortal life. In dealing with the people and events of this world, God counsels you:
“Behold, I send you forth as sheep among the wolves; be you therefore wise as serpents and harmless as doves.”
“For when you were a child, you spoke as a child, you understood as a child, you thought as a child; but when you became as men and women, to stand yourself full grown, you put away your childish things, to be as one who knows.”
It is important to your sense of well being that you deal wisely and as an adult with others. But in dealing with God, you are always to remember that you are their child. And a good child always has a childlike faith and trust in their Heavenly Parents. Good children are not disobedient; they are not disrespectful; they are not demanding; neither are they unappreciative. A good child knows that faith, trust and obedience is their way of showing their love, respect and appreciation to their Heavenly Parents. A wise and prudent skepticism may be helpful in dealing with the hidden agendas of others. But it is never to be used in dealing with God. A person may say that they have faith in God, but if they show an unwillingness to trust God, or to act upon those truths which God reveals to them; then the truth is that they do not have faith in God. To those who claim to love God, to believe in God but who will not themselves obey God or trust in God; to these your Heavenly Parents would ask:
“Be you doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For why will you call me: ‘Lord, Lord’, and do not the things which I say?”
Ask yourself honestly: What keeps you from becoming one with God? What hinders you in stretching out your arms to God whereby she might lift you above the smallness of your life? What prevents you from seeing as God sees, or from understanding as God understands? If priesthood is empowerment: why do you still feel weak and helpless in the living of your life? If priesthood is about divine perspective: why are you still like someone who is blind, stumbling around in a darkness of your own creating? And if, as God says, priesthood is oneness, then why have you separated yourself from God? Who or what do you worship? You cannot serve two masters. Either you follow God and worship God, or you follow the church and worship the church. How will you choose? What hinders you from choosing God? Remember, God is not the church, the church is not God.
The answer to all these questions is simple. It is because you are fearful and divided within yourself. You fear that you do not have what it takes to live the sacred life. You do not really believe in yourself and hence, you cannot believe in God.
“Build in yourself a good foundation
and all things are possible.
Believe in yourself
and you will never fall.
Because you do not believe in yourself
you cannot believe in God.
Because you do not believe in yourself
you are filled with great despair.”
Book of Pearls 12:1
Or, perhaps you fear what others will say about you. Instead of seeing the blessings to be gained, you see the shadows of your own fears rising up to get you. Or again, perhaps the thought of persecution retards your steps; the fire of ridicule and scorn might prove hotter than you can bear. If this is you, then it is to you that God would gently speak these words:
“For this cause am I come to bring fire unto the earth, that it might receive unto itself the refreshing of the Holy Spirit.
Whosoever, therefore, will come unto me, the same standeth near the fire; but whosoever will not come unto me, even that one is far from the Kingdom.”
“Behold, I am God, and my glory is a consuming fire. Therefore, unto all those who shall endure to come again unto me will I give eternal life, even worlds without end, for they shall be Gods.”
There exists in you a great division, a struggle between opposing natures. On one hand, you are a spiritual being. You truly yearn for God and heavenly things. You hunger for the sacred and you desire spiritual awareness and fulfillment. You want to believe in God. You want to know God. You want to touch God and in so doing, touch your truer self.
But on the other hand, your physical mortal self has its own desires and demands. Your physical self reminds you that the rent must be paid, the car fixed, the family tended to. And on top of all these things, everything is getting more and more expensive. So you must work harder and longer to stay ahead of the game. And from out of this mortal side of yourself rises the dark speaker which is always advising you not to get too carried away by spiritual things; whispering into your ear that you have better things to do; haunting you with the admonition that spiritual things require too much effort, too much time, too much sacrifice; casting into your heart the seeds of self doubt; telling you over and over again that you are being foolish, for you are not strong enough, good enough, or wise enough to become one with God. Between this dark speaker of your physical self and the spirit of your truer self there seems to be a tug of war, and you are caught in the middle.
It is clearly understood by your Heavenly Parents, that the religious and social traditions from which you come may make you apprehensive when brought face to face with the true principles of God. But of this your Heavenly Parents would remind you of the wise counsel given in the scriptures regarding bad traditions.
“It is tradition only which would keep from you the prize of greatest worth; for in some traditions do we find a harsh and bitter master which would but hold us in some firm and narrow fashion;
Causing that we should prove ourselves unable to see, or hear, or taste, or touch, or move about in light and joy and happy life for fear of such traditions as do hedge up the way against us.
For if we should think to reach beyond the darkness of ages past, then will the bitter voice of this tradition or that tradition lay strong hold upon the mind to pull us back into the dungeons of despair and sorrow, of which there is no end except to the one who can break in pieces the chains which strongly bind....
To strike against such firm traditions is a pale and frightful thing; for within its grasp do even the mighty tremble…”
3rd Endowment 26:10-12, 36
If you feel that the traditions of ages past are keeping you from truly knowing God, and from living the sacred life, then the Song of God is meant for you. But like the drowning man, I can throw you the lifeline, but it is up to you to grab and hold on to it with all your might. Give God a chance to truly work in your life.
Remember that priesthood is born in you already. It is a gift from God, and no church can give it to you. If you are a man, your priesthood comes through your Heavenly Father and it is passed to you through procreation. If you are a woman, your priesthood comes through your Heavenly Mother and it is passed to you through procreation also. Heavenly Mother DOES NOT receive her priesthood from your Heavenly Father. To even think such a thing is an insult to your Heavenly Parents. The priesthood of God has nothing to do with the Melchizedek or Aaronic Priesthood of the church. These priesthoods involve more wishful thinking than actual substance. The true priesthood of God is Patriarchal or Matriarchal in nature and they derive their power from your Heavenly Parents. There is no other priesthood. Priesthood is about family – not church!
As the father or mother of your family, your priesthood authority is total and absolute within your family. No man, regardless of their title or position can tell you how to use priesthood within your own families. Always remember: true priesthood is the right to create sacred moments in your family and for those you love, which sacred moments will draw forth the very presence of God.
(This article can be found under ‘Priesthood’ in the Commentary section of the Song
Minor revisions were made to the original to suit the purposes of this web page.)
71. For, behold, through the covenant of priesthood are the children of men, both male and female, made imitators of God. By his holiness are the children of men made partakers of his glory, that they might receive unto their souls the very presence of God and live.
72. Now consider how that the children of men are separated from God by reason of their many follies. By great sin is there made a gulf wide and deep, which would separate forever the Father from the children of men.
73. Seeing, therefore, that God desires that he should restore unto himself the children of his soul, he has prepared a way by which the children of men might approach nigh unto the Father; which way is sure and safe, having been founded in the holiness of God.
74. For whosoever obtains this priesthood, whether male or female, shall find unto their soul an abundance of strength; they shall mount the wind as an eagle; they shall run and not be weary; in the pathway of his righteousness shall they walk and not faint.
75. In them shall God put forth the hand of blessing unto all the children of men, that all who should have desire might come to a knowledge of God.
76. Therefore, unto whatsoever person God shall grant the power of this priesthood, even that one shall have power to make intercession for the children of men, that all might come to an understanding of the mercies of God.
77. Unto them shall the bearers of priesthood go. And they shall lay themselves down, even as a sure pathway in a lone and weary land where no safety is, that all who should walk therein might find to their greater joy the deliverance of God.
78. And to all those who shall be faithful to do the works of priesthood shall God fulfill the promise of every good thing, for he shall grant unto them both exaltation and increase in the kingdom of the Father.