Chapters 11 Section A
As set forth in the preceding pages, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints proclaims the need of Temples at the present time, reared and dedicated to the service of the Most High; and affirms that upon the Church has been placed the commission to build and maintain these sanctuaries, and to administer therein the saving and exalting ordinances of the Gospel for both living and dead.
This labor has already attained a magnitude at once impressive and surprising. Ordinances of baptism with accompanying confirmation, ordination in the Priesthood, and sealing both in the relation of husband and wife and in that of parents and children, as solemnized in the Temples of the current dispensation, already number many millions; and the continuation of the work is marked by unabated zeal and devotion.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is given for the salvation of human-kind; its requirements apply alike to the living whose blessed privilege it is to hear its glad tidings while in the flesh, and to the dead who may accept the truth in the spirit world. The genius of the Gospel is that of altruism unbounded; its power to save extends beyond the portals of death. As the vicarious work for the dead can be done only in sanctuaries specially devoted thereto, there will be an ever-present need for Temples so long as there are souls awaiting this ministry.
The present is the age of greatest import in all history, embodying as it does the fruition of the past and the living seed of the yet greater future. The present is the dispensation of fullness, for which the dispensations of bygone centuries have been but preliminary and preparatory. The saving and sanctifying labor incident to modern Temples surpasses that of the Temples of earlier times as the light of the full day exceeds the twilight of the dawn.
The authority of administration in the Temples of Solomon, Zerubbabel, and Herod, was that of the Lesser or Aaronic Priesthood; for the Higher or Melchisedek Priesthood, otherwise known as the Holy Priesthood after the order of the Son of God, had been taken from Israel with Moses. The temples of the present are administered under the greater authority. The importance of the distinction between these two orders of Priesthood may warrant a further consideration in this place. That the two are essentially separate and distinct is made plain by Paul in his epistle to the Hebrews:
“If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedek, and not be called after the order of Aaron?
“For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.”
The apostle emphasizes the superiority of the Priesthood named after Melchisedek by affirming that Jesus Christ was a High Priest of that exalted order. This Priesthood was held and exercised by the patriarchs in turn from Adam to Moses. Aaron was ordained to the priest’s office, as were his sons; but that Moses held superior authority is abundantly shown. After Aaron’s death his son Eleazar exercised the authority of High Priest of the Lesser Priesthood; and even Joshua had to ask of him counsel and instruction.
From the ministry of Moses to that of Christ the Lesser Priesthood alone was operative upon the earth, excepting only the instances of specially delegated authority of the higher order such as is manifest in the ministrations of certain chosen prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and others. It is evident that these prophets, seers, and revelators, were individually and specially commissioned; but it appears that they had not the authority to call and ordain successors, for in their time the Higher Priesthood was not existent on earth in an organized state with duly officered quorums. Not so with the Aaronic or Levitical Priesthood, however, for the courses or quorums of that order were continued until the time of Christ. The last to hold and exercise the authority of the Aaronic Priesthood under the old or Mosaic dispensation was John the Baptist, who was specially commissioned. The matter is thus set forth in a modern revelation:
“Now this Moses plainly taught to the children of Israel in the wilderness, and sought diligently to sanctify his people that they might behold the face of God; �
“But they hardened their hearts and could not endure his presence, therefore the Lord in his wrath (for his anger was kindled against them) swore that they should not enter into his rest while in the wilderness, which rest is the fullness of his glory.
“Therefore he took Moses out of their midst, and the Holy Priesthood also;
“And the Lesser Priesthood continued, which priesthood holdeth the key of the ministering of angels and the preparatory gospel;
“Which gospel is the gospel of repentance and of baptism, and the remission of sins, and the law of carnal commandments, which the Lord in his wrath, caused to continue with the house of Aaron among the children of Israel until John, whom God raised up, being filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother’s womb;
“For he was baptized while he was yet in his childhood, and was ordained by the angel of God at the time he was eight days old unto this power, to overthrow the kingdom of the Jews, and to make straight the way of the Lord before the face of his people, to prepare them for the coming of the Lord, in whose hand is given all power.”
The Higher or Melchizedek Priesthood was restored through the personal ministry of Jesus Christ, and remained with His apostles and in the Church under their administration, but was again lost as the great apostasy progressed.
The Holy Priesthood in its fullness has been restored in the present age,-not alone the lesser functions of deacon, teacher, and priest, which constitute the distinctive offices of the Aaronic order including the Levitical, but the higher authority as well-that of the elder, the seventy, the patriarch, the apostle, and the high priest.
The Temples of today are maintained and the distinctive ordinances pertaining thereto are administered under the authority of the Higher of Melchisedek Priesthood, the greatest and highest commission ever conferred upon man. The Divine prediction voiced by Malachi is in process of rapid fulfilment. Elijah the prophet has been sent to earth and he has committed to the Church that power and authority by which the vicarious service in behalf of the dead was inaugurated. Through his ministration the hearts of the fathers are turning toward the children, and the hearts of the children toward the fathers, and this in preparation of the approaching advent of our Lord, the Christ.