Did Joseph Smith restore the Biblical priesthood, or start a new one?
Issues with the Creation of the Priesthood
Mormon vs Biblical Priesthood
Joseph Smith claimed that in 1829, John the Baptist appeared to him and Oliver Cowdery, conferring on them the office of the Aaronic Priesthood. Soon after, the apostles Peter, James, and John appeared to them, giving them the higher Melchizedek Priesthood. It was this authority that gave Smith the power to restore the church of Jesus Christ.
The problem with this story is that records show no one even knew about it until several years after the Mormon church had been founded. And certain church doctrines concerning the priesthood had to be added back into previously published revelations that failed to mention it.
But now let’s compare the Biblical priesthood with the Mormon church’s restoration of it. First, here’s what the Bible says.
God originally instated the Aaronic priesthood for the male physical descendents of Aaron who were at least 25 years old. Their most important function was the butchering and burning of sacrificial animals in the temple for the forgiveness of sins on behalf of the people. And they were professional, making their living off of designated portions of the sacrifices. There was only one high priest who held that position for life, and performed the most sacred ceremony in the Holy of Holies once a year.
The Melchizedek priesthood was held by only two men. Melchizedek, who died long before the Aaronic priesthood was established, and Jesus. And since Jesus lives forever, he is the only Melchizedek priest forever.
Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross did away with the need for the Aaronic priesthood and the sacrificial system. The New Testament describes all Christians as priests regardless of gender or age. This unnamed priesthood gives them the power to have a personal relationship with God, and to come to Him through Christ for the forgiveness of sins.
In the New Testament church offices appear, such as deacon, elder, and apostle, but the structure was not hierarchical.
In Mormonism however, it is very hierarchical and authoritative, and is only for males. It starts with the Aaronic priesthood, which covers 3 offices. The first is deacon, given to 12 year olds, at 14 they become teachers, and at 16 become priests. They do things like collect the offering and distribute the sacrament.
The Melchizedek priesthood covers the next 6 offices. At age 18 one can become an elder, even though the Bible describes elders as responsible heads of families. Married men can then become bishops, which, in the Bible is interchangeable with elder. They oversee the Aaronic priesthood and the ward.
High priests work at the stake level, which is a group of wards. Next is there’s the Seventy, which gets its name from the time when Jesus sent out seventy disciples to spread the gospel. Then there’s the Patriarchs. In the Bible, only the 15 literal patriarchs of Israel in the book of Genesis were referred to as patriarchs.
Finally we have the apostle. There are 15 of them, the Quorum of the Twelve, the President and his 2 counselors. In the Bible, only people who had physically witnessed the resurrection of Christ were eligible to become apostles.
As is apparent in this brief survey, the so-called restored church that Joseph Smith set up bears no resemblance to the church God set up in the Bible. It borrows some names, but strips them of their intended meaning by changing definitions and combining the relevant with the obsolete. Find out more about it at ldsvideo.org