What does "priesthood" mean in LDS churches?

In Episode 20 of Big Love, Bill confers “priesthood” status (strictly within the family, apparently) on his 16-year-old son Ben – in a very private ceremony in the basement, with no witnesses, with Ben kneeling while Bill puts a hand on his head and prays. What exactly does it mean to be a family “priest” in an LDS church? What are the powers and duties? (We’ve wrangled before in this forum over whether members of a schismatic polygamist sect like the fictional United Effort Brotherhood or the real-life Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints on which it is based can properly be called “Mormons” – Monty emphatically denies it – but I hope it is noncontroversial to call them “LDS.”)

I’m reminded of an episode where Nikki is upset about something and Bill, trying to comfort her, says, “Do you want me to give you a blessing?” Implying that a blessing is within his particular power to give – that it would not mean the same thing for Nikki to bless him. I always wondered about that.

It’s a hilarious episode, BTW – with Ben admitting to his parents he’s been having sex with his girlfriend – “And I liked it!” – with a mixture of shame and defiance and defensiveness much like another teenaged boy might use to tell his parents he’s gay! :stuck_out_tongue:

There are two priesthoods in the LDS church.

The lesser priesthood is called the Aaronic priesthood, the higher one is called the Melchizedek priesthood. There are different offices in each priesthood. The Aaronic has Deacon, Teacher, and Priest. The Melchizedek has Elder, Seventy, and High Priest. There are other callings within each priesthood, but those are the major divisions.

If the person is raised in the church, the male is usually ordained to the Aaronic priesthood at age 12 and is called to the office of Deacon. At 14 he becomes a Teacher, at 16 a Priest. When he is called on a church mission, or the Bishop (local parish leader) thinks he’s ready, the male is ordained to the Melchizedek priesthood and is called to be an Elder.

Females are not called to the priesthood in the LDS church, therefore have no authority to give blessings or officiate in church meetings.

What it means, according to the doctrine, is the person has the authority to act in the name of God. Depending on the office, the person can officiate in sacramental (Eucharistic) duties, baptize, confirm, give blessings to the sick and other blessings as required, and ordain others to the Priesthood. Church leaders such as Bishop, counselors, Stake President, General Authorities (the worldwide leaders) are required to be Melchizedek priesthood holders.

And my take on the FLDS and Fundamental groups (I know Monty’s take is different, I know the main body of the LDS Church has a different view, but this is MY opinion, take it for what it’s worth!) is that they are LDS. Yes, they split off from the main body of the church. But they use the Book of Mormon, their doctrines are very similar, in fact they claim to use the original church organization and doctrine that the founder Joseph Smith organized. And the main body of the church has changed a lot of what Smith taught, calling it revelation from God.

Standard Disclaimer: I was raised in the LDS church, but am no longer a member, having resigned from the organization. I do know church history and organization quite well.

In the churches which trace their lineage back to Joseph Smith, Jr., priesthood is:

I emphatically deny it for two reasons: (1) the general populace considers “LDS” and/or “Mormon” to refer to the denomination headquartered in Salt Lake City whose current President is Gordon B. Hinkley, and (2) as this link explains:

This link further explains that issue:

To the best of my knowledge, all the churches tracing their lineage back to Joseph Smith, Jr., have the same view of priesthood.

That’s a pretty good posting, Rico; however, you forgot that Bishop is an office in the Aaronic Priesthood. Those who are not literally descendants of Aaron must have the Melchizedek Priesthood to hold that office.

By the way, are any seasons of Big Love out on DVD yet? I hear it’s pretty good but it’s not available here.

I haven’t seen Big Love, but the scene as described wouldn’t be “right” in an orthodox LDS context. You have to have witnesses and stuff; you can’t do it in a secret basement procedure!

Otherwise Rico describes it right.

Season One.

It wouldn’t be all that common; however, it is permissible for one Elder to perform both parts of the blessing for the “sick and afflicted.” At least so says page 23 of the Family Guidebook (warning: PDF):

Page 25 of the same manual (remember, PDF) also states (bolding mine):

I imagine that in the Big Love plotline, there aren’t that many Elders in the featured (fictional) denomination. Assuming they have the same attitude towards Priesthood as my denomination (non-fictional), one Elder performing the blessing would be correct.

I was referring to the ordination, not the blessing part. See OP:

No way would that pass in the LDS Church, ya know. :wink:

Yep! Come to think of it, there’s no way it would fly in the LDS to immediately ordain someone after such an admission as he made in that episode.

The Hendriksons don’t really belong to any congregation and seem to more or less make the rules up as they go. Bill is the head of the family, and for all intents and purposes the only spiritual guide they have. He has some support from his fellow stand-alone polygamist buddies, but it’s not like the families get together to worship or anything.

I don’t suppose there are any Mormons who are literally descendants of Aaron? (As I understand it, that distinction is presumptively limited to Jews named Cohen, or some variation thereof such as Cohn or Kahane.)

What would be required first? Some ritual penance or purification?

Also: Can a father simply ordain his son like that? Outside of church or temple, and without involving the official hierarchy? (I mean, in a schismatic sect like Bill’s.)

Some Jews do convert. No doubt even some with the cognate names for Cohen have done so.

In my denomination, if a man has broken the Law of Chastity, he must confess to his Bishop. A Priesthood leader (Ward Bishop, Branch President, or Stake President) will counsel him and give him a timeline for when he may be eligible for ordination. The Priesthood leader will also place certain restrictions on him, such as prohibiting him from preparing, passing, or blessing the Sacrament, prohibiting him from preaching at Church meetings, etc.

Reading page 21 of the Family Guidebook (PDF), I found this (again, bolding my me):

I looked at that Amazon link. The thing’s a bit pricey, isn’t it?

That’s about what I paid for season I of “Rome”. As much as I like “Big Love”, it ain’t no “Rome”, though.

If you haven’t seen “Rome”, spend your money on that. I suspect season II will be out shortly as well.

This was more common in the early church, as my great-great-great-greatgrandfather (or something like that) was baptised in a hole cut like in a frozen lake in Norway and ordained on the stop by the single missionary there.