Topic Study: High Priest – Melchizedek Priesthood

(July 2005 TG Entry: High Priest – Melchizedek Priesthood)

II            A Brief History

The following is from Elder David E. Sorensen, Presidency of the Seventy, from June 2005 Ensign, “The High Priest Quorum

Throughout the history of humankind whenever the gospel in its fulness has been on earth, the Lord has called high priests to preside over His work.

  • Adam, Enoch, Noah, Melchizedek, Abraham, Moses, and other righteous men were ordained high priests (see Alma 13; D&C 84:6–17; D&C 107:41–53).
  • After Moses’s time the Lord withdrew the Melchizedek Priesthood from the earth except among certain faithful men.
  • Among the Book of Mormon peoples, the presiding spiritual authorities were high priests (see Alma 8:23; Alma 30:20–23).
  • During His mortal ministry Jesus Christ was the presiding high priest on earth (see Heb. 3:1). And as the great high priest, the Savior made an eternal sacrifice and “obtained eternal redemption for us” (see Heb. 9:11–12). He continues to preside over His Church.
  • In the dispensation of the fulness of times, the first ordination to the office of high priest occurred at a conference of the Church held in Kirtland, Ohio, in June 1831. At that time 23 men were ordained high priests.
  • For a time high priests quorums were organized in each ward, and each had its own presidency. But in 1877, shortly before his death, President Brigham Young directed that stake presidents should have responsibility over these quorums.
  • In 1956 stake presidents began serving as presidents of the high priests quorums in their respective stakes.
  • In December 1975 the First Presidency clarified that ward high priests groups function as part of the stake high priests quorum, with the stake president serving as president of the quorum and his counselors in the stake presidency serving as counselors in the quorum. Ward high priests group leaders function under the direction of the stake president.

III           A Talk at High Priest Quorum Meeting

I gave the following talk at Joliet Stake High Priest Quorum Meeting on Sunday, October 18th, 2009.  There are a few spelling errors within the document.


Brethren, it is a strange set of circumstances that would bring me to speak in this gathering, as the stake young men’s president.  Pres. Washburn has very large shoes to fill…..Very large.  But at least you can’t see my feet trying to fill those shoes.  Trying to stand here and fill his jacket would be even more difficult.  But I do feel the Lord has had a hand in allowing me to bear my testimony to you today.

As Stake Young Men’s President, I would like to speak to you about a particular responsibility of the high priests over those who hold the Aaronic priesthood; namely those we call Prospective Elders.  A Prospective Elder is any man older than 19 years of age who does not have the Melchizedek priesthood.  I would like to expand a bit that definition of Prospective Elder to include the young men of our stake as well, for we certainly hope they all are prospective elders.  I wonder, brethren, if we have the vision of what our influence to these young men might be.  Let me share with you a few examples from my own life.

III.A         Memories

I called my father last week to help me remember the first name of my first home teaching companion, Ivan Pearson.  He was gray haired Sweden in the South Cottonwood 1st ward.  He was a good companion for the nine months we worked together.  I remember him asking me when I was available to go, and him making the appointments.  He encouraged me to prepare lessons for our families, even as a deacon.  I remember that some of my lessons were better than others.  I also remember, still 30+ years later, visiting Sister Gillan, the Bishop’s wife while the bishop was still at meetings, giving my lesson, and Brother Pearson commenting to Sister Gillan that I gave good lessons and she agreed.  That complement mattered to me and perhaps influenced this discussion today.

I also thought of Albert Bott in Ogden.  He was always interested in the young men in the South Ogden 78th Ward.  I remember standing in the foyer at church many Sundays with my friends in the quorum, and talking to him.  I remember him sharing some of the stories of his life with us that made us laugh, and made us want to be like him some day.  A few years later I met his granddaughter and told her that I loved his stories, and she said she wasn’t convinced they were all true.  I laughed, but it didn’t matter much to me and my friends, because we sensed he cared about us.

I remember shaking Brother Lion’s hand as he would sit on the back row in the chapel near the entrance.  He had the softest hands I have ever shook, and his heart seemed somewhat similar as he would ask me how I was on Sunday at church.  It was a small, but consistent interaction with him.  Rudy Van Kampen always made us young men feel glad we had stopped at his home when collecting fast offerings.  He was glad to see us, and made us feel welcomed and loved.  It too was a small interaction, but memorable, and made me feel important.

These were great high priests, who cared for extended “Prospective Elders.”  And not all these men were long ago and far away.  Brother Earle, my high priest group leader, and a man not opposed to teasing me a bit (I seem to make myself a pretty big target I must admit), showed me great kindness just three weeks ago in stopping me after church to spend 20 minutes and ask me about the load of my home teaching families.  He had no idea I was fasting that day because I was concerned about doing my duty in home teaching.

After that conversion, Al Storey expressed affection for me and his time as my family’s home teacher as we said goodbye from church.  His words sunk deep into my heart in the coming days.

Perhaps one of the most sincere complements I have ever given happened a few years ago here in this chapel.  I believe it was after Stake Conference I was walking out and chatting with Brother Gunther.  As we walked I surprised myself a bit as I turned to him with a bit of emotion and said, “Brother Gunther, I don’t think you know how many men my age in our stake look at you and say, ‘Someday, I want to grow up and be like Brother Gunther.’”  And I still want to be like Brother Gunther.

[It was a similarly pleasurable experience in September 2018, thirteen years after this talk, to be in the Provo Utah Temple with my daughter having finished a session, looking to perhaps do some sealings, and find he was in the sealing office, and helped us with our desires.  I told my daughter, “Can you see why I want to someday be like Brother Gunther.”]

III.B         Greater Effectiveness

I think there are things we can do to be of greater effectiveness in these efforts brethren.  As I have pondered this topic, I have wondered if at times, because of our experience, we are challenged to approach and talk to our younger brethren at the level that are at today.  Do we look down on them because they aren’t where we are, or interested in heading that way.

When I look at the Savior’s example, I find that he was willing to engage each person where they were at that moment.  He helped to move each of them forward, no matter the station in life.  To some—the committed—his call was to sell all that they had and to follow him.  To others it was to go unto to the priest and offer the appropriate sacrifice.  To others it was to go their way and sin no more.  He did not demand that all should sell all that they had; many were not ready for those types of commitments.

He was willing to help the father who almost had enough faith.  I wondered what was it the Savior did that elicited the response:  “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief” (Mark 9:24).  I wonder if there wasn’t a small pause before he cried out “help thou mine unbelief.”  Perhaps a simple look from the Savior was all that was needed.  It is wonderful that that Savior did not say, after the man said, “Lord I believe,” “No you don’t really.”

Do we say, “No, you don’t really” to Prospective Elders?  Perhaps not in our words but in our actions?

I am a strong believer, brethren, in prayerfully assigning home teaching companionships between those that can strengthen and those that need strengthening.  If the companionship is working, don’t change it.  Here are your instructions from D&C 84:106 – 110:

106  And if any man among you be strong in the Spirit, let him take with him him that is weak, that he may be edified in all meekness, that he may become strong also.

107  Therefore, take with you those who are ordained unto the lesser priesthood, and send them before you to make appointments, and to prepare the way, and to fill appointments that you yourselves are not able to fill.

108  Behold, this is the way that mine apostles, in ancient days, built up my church unto me.

109  Therefore, let every man stand in his own office, and labor in his own calling; and let not the head say unto the feet it hath no need of the feet; for without the feet how shall the body be able to stand?

110  Also the body hath need of every member, that all may be edified together, that the system may be kept perfect.

It would be good for you to have companions that are of the Aaronic Priesthood.  I have found that the hour in a car is a tremendous time to get to know them, to show interest in them, to quietly teach by persuasion and long-suffering.  These verses speak of making sure they have an assignment.  Do we at time lovingly challenge them to take a father or friend fulfill appointments if something keeps us from going?  No matter how the execute those assignments, make sure we do not look down upon the feet in anyway.  In my 10 years in the ward I am on only my second companion.  I have grown to love them both deeply, and will be sad when my current companion leaves for school or a mission a year from now.

III.C         Hymn

Now in closing, I want to explain why I think it is unusual I am able to bear testimony to you today.  In a few moments we are going to sing an intermediate hymn, entitled “High Priesthood.”  In June as I sat down in Sacrament meeting, I had just concluded writing the words for a new hymn, and had found the experience very enjoyable.  I decided I wanted to write another.  I wondered what would be an appropriate topic.  I had just read an article about how we don’t have as many devotional hymns with text that come from the Book of Mormon as one would expect us to have, and so I thought that would be interesting.  About that time, I heard announced that Brother Charles Worlton had been ordained a High Priest in order to serve in the High Priest Group leadership in our ward.  Welcome Brother Worlton.  That made me think back to the day I was ordained a high priest.

I realized that that day, the day of one’s ordination to the High Priesthood in general, and to be a High Priest specifically, is a rather quiet event in the life of a man.  It is not something we often speak of.  I wondered if there would be a time when it would be appropriate to sing of such an occasion, and I immediately thought of this meeting.  I realized there is no hymn, no anthem written for High Priest Quorum meeting.  I wondered what scriptural text from the Book of Mormon might inform such as hymn, and immediately thought of Alma Chapter 13.  The following is the result.

High Priesthood

Like God’s own Son, we were foreknown before the world was.
Redemption was prepared by faith and good works in His cause.
With humble heart, an eye of faith the privilege came to be;
Through atonement High Priesthood is from all eternity.

Great works both before the world was and in this life including the atonement, created the High Priesthood.  We participated in those works before we came here.  It is not that we are special in some way; it is that we worked in righteousness.

Ordained by holy ordinance High Priesthood comes to me;
a calling, holy order are promised eternally.
Thus we become High Priests after the Order of God’s Son,
who’s full of grace and equity; and thus our work’s begun.

Our opportunities and obligations are tremendous because we are High Priest after the Order of God’s Son.  We have a work to do because of that.

We follow many gone before whose garments are made white,
are sanctified and sin abhor, are pure, rest in God’s sight.
Melchizedek, the prince of peace, taught Abraham to tithe
and turn from sin. His name is great the scriptures testify.

Abraham did not spring from the womb a great patriarch.  He was taught by someone, and that someone was Melchizedek.  He taught Abraham to tithe.  Abraham, similar to others Melchizedek led, had to learn how to repent, and apply the atonement in their lives.  Brethren, we can help the rising generation as well.

At this point in the scriptures Alma stretches forth his hands and calls repentance.  This is not disconnected from the duties of a High Priest.  Alma is teaching what a great high priest does.

Stretch forth your hands and call repent, salvation draweth nigh.
The voice of God it doth declare glad tidings from on high.
In plainness preach as wanderers: Prepare your hearts, receive
His word in glory when He comes, made known by prophecy.

But let us remember that we must work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, and endure to the end.  Therefore:

Humble yourselves before the Lord, call on his holy name.
Watch and pray when temptations come you’ll overcome the same.
Be meek, patient, and full of love; submit, long-suffering;
have faith, hope of eternal life raised up with God, resting.

Based Upon Alma 13
Scriptural References                                                                             Alma 13:3-7
Alma 13:8-9
Alma 13:10-20
Alma 13:21-27
Alma 13:28-29

Let me bear you my testimony that I am grateful to be able to bear testimony, and to declare:

Ordained by holy ordinance High Priesthood has come to me;
that a calling, holy order are promised eternally.
Thus I am striving to become a High Priest after the Order of God’s Son,
who’s full of grace and equity; and thus my work’s begun.


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