The priesthood is the power to act in God’s name, and this power is on earth today in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. According to the will of God as revealed through His prophets, the priesthood is given only to worthy men and young men age twelve years and older.
There are two divisions in the priesthood, the Melchizedek Priesthood and the Aaronic Priesthood (see Doctrine and Covenants 107:1). The Melchizedek Priesthood is the greater priesthood, and it was once known as “the Holy Priesthood, after the Order of the Son of God.” The name was changed in order to show more reverence for the name of the Son of God by not using it so often. Melchizedek was a high priest who lived at the same time as Abraham; he was so righteous that the priesthood was given his name.
The Aaronic Priesthood is an appendage to the Melchizedek; this lesser priesthood is called Aaronic because it is the same priesthood that was conferred on Aaron and his sons in ancient days. Those holding the Aaronic Priesthood have the authority to administer in the outward ordinances of faith, repentance, and baptism (Doctrine and Covenants 107-13-14, 20) and temporal affairs.
Those holding the Melchizedek Priesthood have the power and authority to lead the Church and to direct the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ worldwide. They are in charge of the spiritual work of the Church (see D&C 84:19-22). They direct the work done in the temples and preside over wards, branches, stakes, and missions. They have power to heal the sick, bless the babies, and give special blessings to Church members. The President of the Church is also the Lord’s chosen prophet; he is the presiding high priest over the Melchizedek Priesthood (Doctrine and Covenants 107:65-57).
“There is a difference between priesthood and the `keys’ of the priesthood. A priest in a ward has power sufficient to baptize, yet he3 has not the right to perform this ordinance until he has been authorized by the bishop. The bishop has the `keys’ to administer to the affairs belonging under his ecclesiastical jurisdiction. Therefore, he is the person who can tell a priest to baptize.
“The president and prophet of the Church has the `keys’ of the priesthood to administer in all spiritual and temporal affairs of the Church. It is his right to delegate stake presidents, bishops, patriarchs and others, as holders of the `keys’ pertaining to specific offices in certain geographical areas.
“President Joseph F. Smith taught on this subject: `Every man ordained to any degree of the priesthood has this authority delegated to him. But it is necessary that every act performed under this authority shall be done at the proper time and place, in the proper way, and after the proper order. The power of directing these labors constitutes the keys of the priesthood.’ (Gospel Doctrine, p. 136)” (Melvin R. Brooks, L.D.S. Reference Encyclopedia, p. 393, as quoted in Gospel Principles (1978), p. 60)
When the Aaronic Priesthood is conferred on a man or a boy or when the Melchizedek Priesthood is conferred on a man, he is ordained to a specific office. The offices of the Aaronic Priesthood are deacon, teacher, priest, and bishop; offices in the Melchizedek Priesthood are elder, seventy, high priest, patriarch, and apostle. The offices of the priesthood are considered to be appendages to the priesthood (see Doctrine and Covenants 84:29-30; 107:5). Each office has specific duties and responsibilities that may be given to those who meet in priesthood groups or quorums. Each group or quorum is presided over by a group leader or quorum president who teaches the members their duties and asks them to fill certain assignments.
Every boy or man who has received the priesthood belongs to a group or quorum; this is a privilege that comes with the priesthood. Members of quorums watch over each other and other families. When a priesthood quorum functions properly, the members of the quorum are encouraged, blessed, fellowshipped, and taught the gospel by their leaders. Membership in a priesthood quorum should be regarded as a sacred privilege.