What Is the Priesthood?

The Oxford English Dictionary defines priesthood simply as “the office or position of a priest.” This is the everyday meaning of the word. When Mormon tells us that Alma gave up his position as chief judge and “confined himself wholly to the high priesthood of the holy order of God” (Alma 4:20), he is simply telling us that Alma dedicated himself to his duties as the high priest over the church.

But in the city of Ammonihah, Alma provided a more expansive definition of the term:

This high priesthood being after the order of his Son, which order was from the foundation of the world; or in other words, being without beginning of days or end of years, being prepared from eternity to all eternity, according to his foreknowledge of all things (Alma 13:7).

People who exercise faith, repent, and work righteousness become “high priests forever.” They are sanctified. Their garments are washed white through the blood of the Lamb. And they ultimately enter into the rest of God (Alma 13:10-12).

After providing this sweeping vision of the priesthood, Alma issues a challenge to his listeners:

I would that ye should humble yourselves before God, and bring forth fruit meet for repentance, that ye may also enter into that rest” (Alma 13:13).

Priesthood is much more than the ecclesiastical roles and duties of priests. It is the eternal power of God. Access to the priesthood is access to God’s saving power.

In 1832, Joseph Smith received a revelation in which the Lord described the priesthood in similar terms. He said that the priesthood “continueth in the church of God in all generations, and is without beginning of days or end of years” (Doctrine and Covenants 84:17). He also said that the priesthood:

administereth the gospel and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God.
Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest (Doctrine and Covenants 84:19-20).

A few weeks ago, speaking to the women of the Church, President Russell M. Nelson reaffirmed that these blessings of the priesthood are available to both men and women:

Every woman and every man who makes covenants with God and keeps those covenants, and who participates worthily in priesthood ordinances, has direct access to the power of God. Those who are endowed in the house of the Lord receive a gift of God’s priesthood power by virtue of their covenant, along with a gift of knowledge to know how to draw upon that power.
The heavens are just as open to women who are endowed with God’s power flowing from their priesthood covenants as they are to men who bear the priesthood. I pray that truth will register upon each of your hearts because I believe it will change your life. Sisters, you have the right to draw liberally upon the Savior’s power to help your family and others you love (“Spiritual Treasures,” General Conference, October 2019).

Today, I will remember that God’s priesthood power is available to all who humble themselves, repent, and make and keep covenants with Him. I will follow President Nelson’s invitation to “draw liberally upon the Savior’s power” to bless the people I love.

5 thoughts on “What Is the Priesthood?

Add yours

  1. Reading this calls to mind two of many definitions of grace: (1) God’s enabling power and (2) blessings that are unearned yet nevertheless given as a gift to mankind.



    1. I agree. These scriptures connect priesthood power with grace to a degree that I had not recognized before. Thanks for the comment!


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