Orders of the Priesthood as Found in Scripture

Jan 31
Orders of the Priesthood

A military is built upon a hierarchy of individuals with various ranks and stations and a chain of command that is disciplined to obey orders from their superior officers.

In the scriptures we find an identical situation.

A royal army built upon a foundation or hierarchy of apostles and prophets and other stations which pass down to others the commands to become disciples and obey God’s commandments.

In the scriptures there are several words that tie into this concept.

  • Order
  • Ordain/Ordination – to be set apart in an order
  • Ordinance – to arrange or order

A study of these words and their meanings is, of course, in order (pun intended).

Like last week’s topic on sin, transgression, and iniquity showed, there are multiple words that can be used in Hebrew and Greek to define and give flavor to these words in English. To briefly look at these definitions in Webster’s 1828 dictionary and Strong’s concordance shows these definitions (not comprehensive lists).

Order: (quick summary: a disciplined fraternity of those in a common cause)

Webster’s: methodical arrangement, proper state, mode of proceeding, mandate, discipline, rank or class, religious fraternity, to regulate, to lead

Strongs’: cause, manner, reason, arrange, put in array, compare, esteem, establish, appoint, be stable.

In Psalms 110:4, the statement “Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek” is used. The Hebrew word is “dibrah” and means cause, manner, or reason. In one place this word is translated estate. Going on a tangent, I found estate is a status, power, dominion, kingdom, priority, station, body of elders, humbled or lowly, and a beginning or origin of one who commences (from Jude 1:6 speaking of our “first estate”). I might summarize this in this manner:

Order of the priesthood: to adopt by faith the cause of Christ and live after his manner to obtain power in humility.


Ordain/ordination: (summary: to set apart for an order)

Webster’s: to set, establish, appoint, set apart for an office, invest with a ministerial function or sacerdotal (priesthood) power

Strongs’: to found, instruct, take counsel, to set, to make for a sign, to put, to locate, to arrange thoroughly, designate


Ordinance: (summary: to establish order by rite)

Webster’s: rule established by law, observance, appointment, established rite or ceremony

Strongs’: Arrangement, act of creating or establishing, statute, commandment, prescribed task, prescribed portion or boundary, verdict, ceremony, hidden time (long past or everlasting)


In performing these searches, there are other words that I found which could be studied to add to this knowledge. In Exodus 28:41 we read:

41. And thou shalt put them upon Aaron thy brother, and his sons with him; and shalt anoint them, and consecrate them, and sanctify them, that they may minister unto me in the priest’s office.

These terms for anoint and consecrate are used quite a bit and would be synonymous with ordain.

Doing searches in the scriptures for these words provides a huge list of verses one can study.

"my order" or "order of" (results in 55 verses and will generate a lot of questions for you to ponder and search)




Orders of the Priesthood in Scripture

This is a list of orders mentioned in scripture with at least 1 verse reference to them. Obviously most of these are just different terms for the same priesthood, but it’s interesting to see them all together.

“order of Melchizedek” (Psalms 110:4; Hebrews 5:6)

“order of Aaron” (Hebrews 7:11)

“high priesthood of the holy order of God” (Alma 4:20)

“holy order of God (Alma 5:44; Alma 13:18)

“order of God” (Alma 6:1)

“order of the church” (Alma 6:4; 8:1) (reference to the order of God)

“order of his Son” (Alma 13:2) (also “order of the Son”)

“order of Enoch” (D&C 76:57)

“order of the Only Begotten Son” (D&C 76:57)

“holiest order of God” (D&C 84:18)

“order of the priesthood” (D&C 94:6)

“Holy Priesthood, after the Order of the Son of God.” (D&C 107:3)

“order of heaven” (D&C 129:7)

“order of him who was without beginning of days or end of years” (Moses 6:67)

False Orders of the Priesthood

There is also one false priesthood order mentioned several times:

“order of the Nehors” (Alma 21:4)


One verse of particular interest to me is this one:

D&C 76:57. “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.”

The word “after” can be read as ranking these orders, or indicating similarity or an identical nature to the other order.

One verse that would indicate these are similar to each other is this segment in D&C 107.

2. Why the first is called the Melchizedek Priesthood is because Melchizedek was such a great high priest.
3. Before his day it was called the Holy Priesthood, after the Order of the Son of God.
4. But out of respect or reverence to the name of the Supreme Being, to avoid the too frequent repetition of his name, they, the church, in ancient days, called that priesthood after Melchizedek, or the Melchizedek Priesthood.

This seems to indicate that the Melchizedek priesthood and the “Holy Priesthood after the Order of the Son of God” are synonymous terms.

However, then we turn to the Joseph Smith translation of Genesis 14 where several important verses are inserted regarding Melchizedek.

27. And thus, having been approved of God, he (Melchizedek) was ordained an high priest after the order of the covenant which God made with Enoch,

28. It being after the order of the Son of God; which order came, not by man, nor the will of man; neither by father nor mother; neither by beginning of days nor end of years; but of God;

29. And it was delivered unto men by the calling of his own voice, according to his own will, unto as many as believed on his name.

32. And men having this faith, coming up unto this order of God, were translated and taken up into heaven.

33. And now, Melchizedek was a priest of this order; therefore he obtained peace in Salem, and was called the Prince of peace.

34. And his people wrought righteousness, and obtained heaven, and sought for the city of Enoch which God had before taken, separating it from the earth, having reserved it unto the latter days, or the end of the world;

So here we have this interesting item. Those coming “up unto this order” were translated. This seems to imply that the order of Enoch is a step above another order.

Perhaps another way to read “after” in D&C 76:57 is “patterned after.” That would make D&C 76:57 read:

57. And are priests of the Most High, after the order of Melchizedek, which was [patterned] after the order of Enoch, which was [patterned] after the order of the Only Begotten Son.

Patriarchal Priesthood

Joseph Smith taught there were two priesthood orders, Aaronic, and Melchizedek. However, in an 1843 sermon just prior to the Nauvoo temple being completed, he taught there was another order or authority to the priesthood called the patriarchal priesthood.

“Go to and finish the [Nauvoo] temple, and God will fill it with power, and you will then receive more knowledge concerning this priesthood” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 323)

This priesthood order is one in which husband and wife must be sealed in the temple and in that condition, “woman shares with man the blessings of the Priesthood,” where husband and wife minister, “seeing and understanding alike, and cooperating to the full in the government of their family kingdom” (Young Woman’s Journal 25 [Oct. 1914]:602-603).

Rather than go into depth on it, let me link to a couple other articles if you would like more information.



Now this does not mean the patriarchal order is the order of Enoch. I believe the patriarchal priesthood is perhaps more of a “lateral” move or appendage instead of vertical. However, I don’t know if one can enter into the order of Enoch or the order of the Son of God without entering into the patriarchal priesthood first with a spouse.

Here’s what I do find fascinating though. Jesus Christ held a fullness of the priesthood including the sealing power. No one on earth ever held more priesthood than Jesus Christ. Speculation: Could this imply that Jesus was translated having surpassed the order of Enoch and that is part of what made the atonement such a voluntary act? Some may say translated beings are protected and can’t feel pain but perhaps that’s part of why it’s a voluntary act. He literally couldn’t be hurt or killed unless he allowed it? We read of both blood and water coming out when the soldier pierced his side which supposedly happens only when blood stands still long enough to separate. Did his heart literally break prior to the crucifixion, perhaps in the garden, but it was not yet time to give up the ghost and ascend to his Father? Well, I’m not declaring that doctrine, but it’s something to think about.

Joseph Smith also taught:

“Was the Priesthood of Melchizedek taken away when Moses died? All Priesthood is Melchizedek, but there are different portions or degrees of it. That portion which brought Moses to speak with God face to face was taken away; but that which brought the ministry of angels remained… All the prophets had the Melchizedek Priesthood and were ordained by God himself.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 180-181).

This has 2 implications knowing what we do of a premortal life.

1) Foreordination

We know this is true from multiple witnesses. Jeremiah 1:5 tells us the Lord ordained Jeremiah a prophet before he “camest forth out of the womb.” It is also suggested in Amos 7:14-15 and Ezekiel 2:1-3:11), and clearly taught in Alma 13.

Joseph Smith taught:

“Every man who has a calling to minister to the inhabitants of the world was ordained to that very purpose in the Grand Council of heaven before this world was. I suppose that I was ordained to this very office in that Grand Council.”

2) Mortal Ordination

How did Nephi get the sealing power conferred upon him in Helaman 10? The Lord says because Nephi was fearless and followed the Spirit willingly into harms way, the Lord said:

5. And now, because thou hast done this with such unwearyingness, behold, I will bless thee forever; and I will make thee mighty in word and in deed, in faith and in works; yea, even that all things shall be done unto thee according to thy word, for thou shalt not ask that which is contrary to my will.

6. Behold, thou art Nephi, and I am God. Behold, I declare it unto thee in the presence of mine angels, that ye shall have power over this people, and shall smite the earth with famine, and with pestilence, and destruction, according to the wickedness of this people.

7. Behold, I give unto you power, that whatsoever ye shall seal on earth shall be sealed in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven; and thus shall ye have power among this people.

How did the Lord bless him and give him this power? Could he just have declared it verbally? Possibly, but the typical pattern is by the laying on of hands. An indication of this can be seen in Doctrine and Covenants section 50.

26. He that is ordained of God and sent forth, the same is appointed to be the greatest, notwithstanding he is the least and the servant of all.

27. Wherefore, he is possessor of all things; for all things are subject unto him, both in heaven and on the earth, the life and the light, the Spirit and the power, sent forth by the will of the Father through Jesus Christ, his Son.

29. And if ye are purified and cleansed from all sin, ye shall ask whatsoever you will in the name of Jesus and it shall be done.

30. But know this, it shall be given you what you shall ask; and as ye are appointed to the head, the spirits shall be subject unto you.

If we don’t possess these traits, what does that imply? Is it merely deficiency on our part that we have not obtained this power in the priesthood, or do we need to become as Nephi through obedience and submission until God declares that we have such power, perhaps through physical ordination. President Nelson has exhorted us to be taught by the Lord himself in April 2016 General Conference. Perhaps there is something more. Read JST 14:29 again:

29. And it was delivered unto men by the calling of his own voice, according to his own will, unto as many as believed on his name.

One can study a topic like this for a very long time. The priesthood is God’s power and entering orders of the priesthood is an eternal goal. Hopefully that’s some things to ponder and search the scriptures further. I encourage you to study the verses in the searches above. There are some fascinating things to discover here.

(Image by ratpack2 @ 123rf.com)


About the Author

Oak Norton - Just trying to share a love of the scriptures with others.